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Public Library 

Kansas City, Mo. 


Political and social hlstorj of Kansas City, 
T T O.~ ^ro:n the virile '70*s to the present, 
theV^ars %hich sav the rise ana fall of 
ast dynasty. 

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To J, P. G., who took me to the Old Town 




THIS is A STORY of the House of Pendergast, the family that exerted a 
major influence on Kansas City, Missouri, politics for a half -century and 
finally established a dictatorial control that extended to the Missouri 
State Capitol and had important national ramifications. 

This is also a story of a town, which for several interesting reasons 
calls itself the Heart of America. The two tales are really one and the 
spirit and substance of American politics are the things of which the 
whole narrative is made. 

If one were seeking a complete pattern of the evolution of the boss 
system and municipal government in the industrial period of the shape 
of American democracy at the seat of origin one would not need to 
look farther than Kansas City in the years of Pendergast ascendency 
and decline. The design is perfectly clear, the details are complete, the 
local, state and national aspects in bold relief. A good deal of that is in 
this story. 

This writer was impressed by the fact that the House of Pendergast 
rose to power and national notoriety in the home town of William Rock- 
hill Nelson, one of the more vigorous, independent and highhanded 
newspaper publishers, who was dedicated to the anti-boss crusade and 
earned a seat among the giants of city building and progressive reform. 

The Pendergasts and Nelson came on the Kansas City scene at ap- 
proximately the same time, and prospered side by side despite each other* 
They were often at odds, their contests were vigorous and exciting 
and they had a profound effect on the character and experience o the 


city which numbered around sixty thousand when they first saw it 
and which now numbers nearly one-half million inhabitants, not count- 
ing the one hundred and thirty-five thousand in the second Kansas 
City which is on the west or Kansas side of this metropolitan area on the 
Missouri-Kansas state line. The results of that struggle were reflected in 
various startling ways in the affairs of the main antagonists and that 
struggle continues today in the schemes and hopes of their successors. 

Nelson, the supreme individualist and archenemy of the old party 
bosses, died shortly before the United States entered the First World 
War. The Pendergast machine rolled to oppressive power on the in- 
dustrial and business boom tide of the postwar years, entrenched itself 
in the chaos of the depression years, grew fat and arrogant on the boodle 
from the spending spree that accompanied the national economic re- 
covery. It fell ,apart in a fantastic series of crimes that disturbed the na- 
tion and were climaxed by the sending of Big Tom Pendergast to 
Federal prison in 1939. 

The reckoning, which came when the nation was being aroused to 
prepare for another world war, was followed by an effort to make radical 
changes in municipal government and party organization, an effort that 
has continued in the 1940^ and promises to produce more excitement. 
In a large measure this development represents a triumph for Baron Bill 
Nelson 'and the Fourth Estate over the old political boss, for most of the 
changes that have been accomplished are reforms which Nelson first 
espoused and the driving force behind the defeat of Pendergast and the 
rise of the new regime was Nelson's newspaper, the Star, no longer Nel- 
son-owned but still directed by men who grew up under the founder. 

Whether this Kansas City episode rounds out an era and defines a 
permanent forward step in good government are questions that only 
time and the experts may settle. Such findings are outside the province 
of the newspaperman who wrote this book in the first place because he 
knew some' good stories of Alderman Jim Pendergast and Old Town, 
of Uncle Joe Shannon and Fifty-Fifty, of Big Tom Pendergast and the 
Free and Easy, of City Manager McElroy and Rabbi Mayerberg's cru- 
sade, of Senator Jim Reed's feud with Woodrow Wilson and Roosevelt, 
of Governor Stark and Emmet O'Malley's Missouri Compromise, of 
Harry S* Truman and the presidential destiny, and many others con- 



cerning various Goats, Rabbits, Republicans, North Side operators, 
South Side uplifters, Old Missouri revivalists and the remarkable, par- 
tisan Nonpartisans. They all belong in the book along with the solemn 
particulars of the business upon which politicians, their friends and vic- 
tims expend an agonizing amount of attention. 

In some ways this is a somber story but perhaps not a tragedy. For 
certain individuals concerned and for the masses whose main interests 
were at stake, it covers an interval that may have been the unhappiest 
time in American memory. But the politicians did their best to lighten 
the gloom and the Kansas Citians managed to be not too doleful through 
it all. In fact, they produced a surprising amount of laughter, which 
seemed genuine for it made a fine sound above the cries of anguish and 
the shouts of rage. 



The Staxmen mentioned in this narrative are but a few of 
many staff members of the Kansas City Star whose accounts 
were helpful in the writing of this story. For their excellent 
reporting; for the privilege of using Kansas City Star^ ad- 
mirable library facilities; for permission to quote from Star 
articles, interviews and editorials; for the loan of Star photo- 
graphs reproduced in this boo\ and for permission to repro- 
duce cartoons by the StarV talented caricaturist, S. /, Ray, the 
writer ta^es this way of expressing his profound appreciation* 





















1908 MAIN 13 


























SHOW ME 304 


THE LUG 311 




Vox POPULI 354 




INDEX 387 


(Halftones following page 192) 































North Side, South Side 


VANDALS AND REFORMERS have conducted a long and not very successful 
campaign against the statue of Alderman Jim Pendergast which sits in 
Mulkey Square, near the west end of Twelfth Street, overlooking the in- 
dustrial West Bottoms where the Pendergasts grew, up with Kansas City. 
The statue of Boss Tom Pendergast's brother was placed there in 1913, 
paid for by popular subscription, unveiled before three thousand ad- 
mirers of Alderman Jim, and was meant to stay. Consisting of three 
pieces Alderman Jim and two cherubs the memorial was designed 
and cast in bronze by the famous Chicago sculptor, Frederick C. Hib- 
bard. It is esthetically satisfying to everyone except a bluenose Repub- 
lican or a junk dealer, a fact that was painfully impressed on the loyal 
Democrats several years after the dedication ceremonies when the heavy 
bronze figures of Jim's two youthful and beautiful companions were 
stolen by a crew of despoilers whose identities were never learned, but 
who obviously were uncommonly desperate and physically powerful 
men. The outraged Democrats proceeded to order duplicates of the 
kidnaped young couple and saw to it that this art work was fastened 
down more securely. 

The attack on the memorial of the saloonkeeper who founded the 
Hjouse of Pendergast continued for many years. Sum total of this 
earnest labor of defacement consists of three missing arms from the 
boy and girl who kneel beside Alderman Jim. The miscreants who made 
off with the arms must have been animated by a stronger sentiment 
than delight in destruction or the larcenous instinct, for it took several 


hours of painful toil with a hacksaw to cut through the metal, and the 
salvage value of each fragment was not more than fifty cents in the 
prewar market. It seemed obvious to all thoughtful citizens of the North 
Side that only a Republican would have the fanatical strength and 
determination to perform such a futile work. 

An attempt to revive the anti-Pendergast movement in Mulkey Square 
was made not long ago at the height of the Nonpartisan reform when a 
virtuous leader of the Chamber of Commerce penned an impassioned 
appeal to the associated promoters, traders and herders who run the 
town. "I do not see," he declared, "why Kansas City should be disgraced 
any longer by having a bronze monument of a saloonkeeper on one of 
its most beautiful drives, and especially as that saloonkeeper bears the 
name of Pendergast, which has been such a great stigma to Kansas City/' 

The only effect produced by this agitation was a raucous laugh on 
Twelfth Street. 

Old Jim is pretty durable, any way you take him. He sits in his alder- 
manic chair beside Kersey Coates Drive with a benign welcoming look 
and a proprietary air. He belongs in Mulkey Square. He was one of the 
promoters of the great industrial scene that spreads before him at Kaws- 
mouth, where the Kaw River and the Missouri, the West's "Big Muddy," 
have their confluence. He is the man most responsible for the fact that 
the district bounded on the south by Twelfth Street still is considered 
the Pendergast political domain, which another Jim, nephew of the old 
saloonkeeper, is directing. 

The people who placed the statue were thoughtful enough to set it so 
that Alderman Jim looks directly over the ground where he operated 
the saloon and inn that established the family's fortune in business and 
politics. Twelfth Street at this point intersects Kersey Coates Drive and 
plunges west over a viaduct into a bottomland region of railroad tracks, 
warehouses, freight offices, factories, packing plants, stockyards, bridges 
and viaducts. Some six blocks west is the Kansas-Missouri state line and 
just beyond that boundary the Kaw or Kansas River winds to its Im- 
minent meeting with the Missouri. Off to the right the great bend of the 
Missouri at Kawsmouth is clearly visible from the eminence on which 
the Pendergast memorial stands. 

The view from Mulkey Square takes in the main part of the industrial 


congregation which has made Kansas City the butcher, miller and dis- 
tributor o the Missouri Valley region and is a scene that is, recommended 
to strangers who are confused when they are told that Kansas City is not 
in Kansas and was not named for that state. The enterprise got under 
way here thirty years before Kansas Territory was qualified for state- 
hood and accepted into the Union in 1861. The Kansas plains were popu- 
larly known as the Great American Desert. That territory didn't seem to 
have a future until it was entered by reckless and headstrong promoters 
from New England, and the result was Bleeding Kansas, John Brown of 
Osawatomie, grasshoppers. Prohibition, Carrie Nation, cyclones, dust 
storms and, finally, Alf Landon, 

On the other hand, the Show Me Land on the east side of the line was 
called the Great Blue Country by the early settlers. The blue skies, the 
blue waters in the springs and the streams that emptied into the Big 
Muddy, and the blue mist on the hills at sundown made the name right. 
Memory of that time survives in names like Blue Mills, Blue Mound, 
Blue Valley, Blue Springs, the Little Blue and the Big Blue rivers all 
in Jackson County and, somewhat less directly, in the Kansas City 
Blues, frequent occupants of the cellar position in the American Asso- 
ciation of Baseball Clubs. 

Kansas City probably would have been named Port Fonda if Abra- 
ham Fonda hadn't been feuding with Henry Jobe in 1838 when they and 
several other pioneer real estate developers got together to organize a 
townsite on 256 acres purchased for $4,200 from the estate of Gabriel 
Prudhomme, French fur trader and farmer. The democratic issue which 
was to trouble this community so greatly in subsequent years figured im- 
mediately in the original transaction, for Mr. Fonda listed himself as 
Abraham Fonda, Gentleman, and Henry Jobe belligerently identified 
himself as Henry Jobe, Carpenter, declaring that he would have nothing 
to do with a town that was named for. a man who assumed the effete 
air of a gentleman. The Jobe faction voted consistently against Port 
Fonda and grew more eloquent as the jug was passed around. After 
long debate, the proprietors agreed to seek incorporation as the Town 
of Kansas, the name deriving from a festive Indian tribe * known as the 

*The Kansas or Kaw Indians were famous for their feasting, dancing, spccchmaking 
and gambling. A remnant of the tribe resides in Oklahoma. 


Kanza or Kansas, which native poets have translated to mean People of 
the South Wind. Although the compromise choice didn't have the hi- 
falutin sound which most of the town's owners would have liked, it was 
most appropriate, for their settlement owed its existence and its hope for 
the future to the fact that it was situated just below the mouth bf the Kaw 

Nature had favored this site as the gateway to the unexploited West 
in every way except one it didn't eem possible that men could push 
back the towering river bluffs at this point to make room for a town of 
any consequence, or that they would be able to cut trails through the 
wooded hills so that passengers and freight from the Missouri River 
steamboats could be moved to the Kansas plains for the long run west 
by pack train and prairie schooner. That is, the prospect was dishearten- 
ing to all except a few large investors in real estate. They were hustlers 
and go-getters of immense purpose, men like John C. McCoy, son of a 
famous Baptist missionary to the Indians and moving spirit in the or- 
ganization of the two towns that grew into modern Kansas City. 

McCoy started the promotion in the region of what is now Kansas 
City's South Side even before there was a North Side. His first enter- 
prise was Westport, four miles inland from the river landing, which he 
established as a rival trail town to the original county-scat town of In- 
dependence. Popular legend has it that McCoy laid out Westport with 
his wife's clothesline, but this has been discredited as a myth, probably 
fostered by envious Independence merchants. The man who founded 
Westport in 1833 was no bungler, and his town quickly eclipsed Inde- 
pendence as the head of the Santa Fe and Oregon trails. It was on the 
west side of Jackson County, adjoining the Kansas line, while Inde- 
pendence lay on the east side and was isolated by several streams that 
created fording problems for the travelers. After starting Westport on its 
way, McCoy turned to the development of the river settlement near Ka ws- 
mouth, then known as Westport Landing and important only as the 
place where the Missouri steamboats unloaded freight and people for 
die short but difficult haul to Westport. Both enterprises were wcfl 
under way in time to catch the bulk of the outfitting business pro- 
vided by the forty-niners and other wayfarers in the great migrations be- 
fore the Civil War. 


Promoter McCoy and associates were so certain that Westport Landing 
had a greater future than Westport that they called it the .City of the Fu- 
ture. After purchasing the townsite and naming it the Town of Kansas, 
they had some difficulty with legal details and sales resistance, but by 
1846 they had the boom started and it has been fairly constant in the 
succeeding century. Colonel Kersey Coates, prophet and builder who 
started the West Bluff phase of the development in the 1 850*8, estimated 
that the Kawsmouth project would grow into a community o a half- 
million residents. It absorbed old Westport at the turn of this century. 
Counting the Kansas Citians on both sides of the state line, the Colonel's 
prophecy now is out of date and a few years ago his daughter, Laura 
Coates Reed, upped the figure to two and possibly three millions. 

All this came about in spite of the predictions of the people of the 
rival river towns of Lexington and St. Joseph, Missouri, Atchison and 
Leavenworth, Kansas, who thought that their towns were meant to be 
the City of the Future and were annoyed by the big talk of the early 
Kansas Citians. These scoffers admitted that ancient Rome made a good 
thing out of its seven hills, but what could be done with the seventy- 
and-seven hills of the Town of Kansas ? They said that the Kansas City 
mountains were congenial only to strange types of men and animals. 
Among the beasts that inhabited this fearsome wilderness was a species 
of wild cattle with two long and two short legs on opposite sides rather 
than ends. The first permanent bluff dwellers were a few fearless char- 
acters like Old Pino, the pioneer fur trapper and mountain man, who 
came up the Missouri in 1815 with an expedition of the American Fur 
Company. Old Pino, a Frenchman whose real name was Jacques Four- 
nais, lent a hand in Kansas City's first commercial activity at the trading 
post established in the Kawsmouth region by Francois Chouteau. After 
the big westward rush set in, Old Pino retired to a cabin on Kersey 
Coates's Hill to spend his last years, confident that he had found a place 
where civilization would never overtake him. He lived to be one hundred 
and twenty-four years old and it is said that the thing which hastened 
his end was his excitement at the sight of the first railroad locomotive 
chugging in the West Bottoms. The age of the mountain men finally 
ended in 1869 when the first bridge across the Big Muc^;, a railroad 
structure Octave Chanute's famous Hannibal Bridge for the Hanni- 


bal & St. Joseph Railroad was built just below Kawsmouth and the 
Kansas Citians staged an enormous celebration in anticipation of the 
greatest traffic rush of all time. 

The City of Kansas knew then that nothing could stop it, for it had 
survived floods, cholera, ague, border war, civil war and a multitude of 
lesser hazards. It had made the bluffs habitable by the expenditure of 
prodigious energy and by great fortitude. Reports circulating in envious 
neighboring towns indicated a large number of Kansas Citians were 
crippled in tumbles from the bluffs to the tops of buildings during the 
heroic excavating period. These accidents did not in the least dampen the 
enthusiasm of the pioneers, who were well fortified with mountain dew 
and the indomitable spirit of real estate agents. 

When Jim Pendergast first saw the West Bottoms, the industrial de- 
velopment was just getting well under way and the West Bluff still re- 
tained t some of the aspects of a jungle. Before he died the west face of 
the bluff was -transformed into West Terrace Park, with stone walls 
and terraces giving the hill the appearance of a massive citadel. Behind 
this battlement the towers of downtown Kansas City rise. 

The spectacular development at Kawsmouth Vequires poetic treat- 
ment to do it justice and that detail was attended to many years ago by 
a rugged Kansas poet, C. L. Edson, who was imported by Colonel Nel- 
son's Star to celebrate the wonders and glories of the City on the Kaw* 
Charlie Edson produced numerous rousing items and achieved local 
immortality with his "Epic of Kansas City," a ^narrative of heroic 
quality, of which these verses arc a good sample: 

The herders and the traders and the sod corn crew, 
They planted 'cm a city when the world was new, 
They planted Kansas City and the darn thing grew. 

The bearcat killers and the Dan Boonc clan, 

The boys that taught the panther his respect for man. 

They planted Kansas City where the bull trails ran. 

Ships made Carthage, gold made Nome, 
Grain built Babylon, the wars built Rome; 
I-vbgs made Chicago with their dying squeal, 
Pittsburgh at the birth of steel. 


Come Kansas City, make your story brief: 
Here stands a city built o* bread and beef. 

This is Kansas City, where the tribe trails meet, 
The rail head, the gateway, the West's Main Street, 
The old tribal stamping ground to stamp your feet.* 

Among the bearcat killers of Kawsmouth, Alderman Jim Pendergast 
was certainly not the least and some day his home town may get around 
to admitting that fact, and then do something about restoring the missing 
pieces in the arms of the cherubs who attend him in Mulkey Square. 


JAMES PENDERGAST was a young man with little education and no finan- 
cial means whatever when he arrived in Kansas City in 1876. He found 
himself in the midst of an international convention of traders, specu- 
lators, prospectors, salesmen of gold bricks and snake oil, and sports. 

In addition to the economic inducements, Kansas City had a cosmo- 
politan flavor and a democratic spirit that made it appealing* to widely 
assorted tastes. It was not a Western city but had something of all four 
points of the compass. The cattle range began just west of Kawsmouth 
but the cowboys and stockmen who came in from Kansas were out- 
numbered by the Kentuckians and Tennesseans who were here first, 
and they in turn were outnumbered by the men from the East and 
North and the lands beyond the Atlantic. The census of 1870 gave Kansas 
City a population of thirty-two thousand and revealed that about a 
fourth of that number was foreign born. Blanketed Indians still strolled 
in the square when Jim Pendergast first saw it, but these sons of the 
original owners were outnumbered by large companies of Irishmen, 
Germans, Englishmen, Canadians and Swedes who were competing 
for the business with the Yankees and the native Missourians. Smaller 
groups of Frenchmen, Hungarians, Norwegians, Austrians, Hollanders, 
Scotsmen and Belgians joined the rivalry and quickly adapted them- 
selves to the local customs. The Italians came along a little later to in- 
crease the pressure, Negroes made up a tenth of the population, 

* By permission of the Kansas City Star. 


The life of the town in this period centered in Market Square, near 
the Missouri River levee on the North Side. Horse and mule trading, 
farm-produce sales, political rallies, revival meetings, medicine shows 
and circuses went on simultaneously in various parts of the public forum, 
one part of which was occupied by the City Hall. Political activity came 
under the classification of popular entertainment and the party orators 
generated so much gas that the citizens were abnormally buoyant. The 
spirits of the partisans were revived by frequent visits to the dozen saloons 
lining the Main Street side of the square, appropriately designated Battle 
Row, which upheld its reputation for disturbance with or without the 
assistance of special squads of police. 

Everybody but the Indians and the Negroes had a chance or labored 
under the illusion that tomorrow he would be able to retire in style. 
The promise of riches and the actual acquisition of sudden wealth in a 
considerable number of cases filled the fortune seekers with confidence 
and an overwhelming desire to prove their luck. They found uncommon 
encouragement in this line of endeavor, for the gambling industry at- 
tained a high state of development in Kansas City in the 1870'$. The 
faro banks at Marble Hall and No. 3 Missouri Avenue were famous 
throughout the West. Scholarly gamblers like Canada Bill, who kept 
himself solvent betting on Webster's spelling and definition of words, 
and colorful plungers like Wild Bill Hickok, the two-gun marshal of 
Abilene, Kansas, made the town their headquarters. Jesse James found 
relaxation in the gambling halls during periods when he lived incog- 
nito in Kansas City, and was not molested. When they were not figuring 
on deals in lots, grain, hogs and cattle and other matters of commerce, 
the citizens exercised their financial genius at chuck-a-luck, faro, three- 
card monte, roulette, high five, keno, poker and, occasionally, craps* 
They bet on horse races, dog fights, free-for-alls with rats, cock fights 
and, in an extremity, they played fly-loo. This last game called for rare 
judgment, the players placing their money on common houseflies aad 
guessing which one would move first, in what direction and how far. 

A brief depression struck the happy Kansas City gamblers in 1881 
when a Legislature controlled by farmers passed the Johnson anti- 
gambling law. The Kansas City protest against this interference with 
freedom was registered in melodramatic fashion by Bob Potee, the ele- 


gant Virginia gentleman who was proprietor o the faro bank at No. 3 
Missouri Avenue. Potee saw the Johnson law as the ominous dawn o 
a new era and decided he didn't want to be around to witness all the 
changes that were coming. One day he put on his high silk hat and 
gloves, picked up his gold-headed cane, and took a walk down to the 
Missouri River. He kept walking majestically until the muddy waters 
swirled over his head. His body was recovered and the town staged an 
appropriate ceremony of farewell to a great man and his age. His funeral 
service was held in a Grand Avenue church and the Reverend Samuel 
Bookstaver Bell, a popular preacher of the day, delivered an impressive 
sermon over his casket. Literally, as in the words of the "Cowboy's La- 
ment/' six tall gamblers bore the casket into the church and carried it 
out for Bob Potee's last journey to his Virginia home. 

The same year that Bob Potee prematurely decided that gambling had 
no future, Jim Pendergast started up the road to success by backing his 
Judgment on a horse. A nag named Climax, a long shot, romped in 
ahead of the field and Jim was riding on its nose with savings from his 
wages as a puddler in the Jarboe Keystone iron foundry. 

Pendergast used his winnings conservatively, setting himself up in 
business as proprietor of an inn and a saloon in the West Bottoms. He 
called his inn the American House, but it later became known as Pender- 
gast House. His first saloon was named Climax, in tribute to the great 
horse that paid off. The future political boss had entered a business with 
a future. There were 220 retail groceries and 200 saloons in the city in 
1880 and the expert opinion was that the latter trade was further from 
being overcrowded than the former, as only the preachers and puritans 
were irregular drinkers. Jim had a high regard for the saloonkeeping 
profession and defended it warmly in later years when the puritans be- 
came more numerous and endeavored to suppress his kind. They moved 
him to an expression of disgust when they introduced a bill in the Legis- 
lature to bar politicians from the saloon business. 

"Well," he said, "there's some saloon men in politics whose word I'd 
take before I'd take the word of some men in politics for whom there is 
no room in the saloon business.'* 

Pendergast's hotel and saloon were on St. Louis Avenue, just below 
the West Bluff at Twelfth Street and just around the corner from roaring 


Union Avenue, the short thoroughfare that carried traffic to the old Union 
Depot and served the basic needs of traveling America for more than 
thirty strenuous years. 

Union Avenue society took a swashbuckling pride in a reputation for 
picturesque sordidness which was believed to compare favorably with 
the iniquity of New York's Bowery. Nothing was allowed to interfere 
with the business of making the transient's stopover at the midcontinent 
interchange point an interesting and instructive interval. At night the 
avenue leading from the depot became a midway blazing with light, 
tumultuous with the shouts of ballyhoo men and the cries of grays (the 
suckers of the day) being whisked out of sight. Booted cattlemen, silk- 
hatted gamblers, ticket scalpers, bunco artists, blanketed Indians, Kansas 
yokels and scented ladies, strolling by from Paris and New Yc>rk, mingled 
in this boisterous democracy. Runners, barkers and cappers employed 
various irresistible devices to interest the travelers in the wonders of the 
hotels, burlesque shows, restaurants, saloons, museums, pawnshops and 
barbershops along the way. A simple matter of getting a haircut often 
turned into a strange and expensive adventure in this neighborhood. 
You could stroll along Union Avenue and avoid all the exciting experi- 
ences it offered, but not if you loitered, for cappers were ever vigilant, 
ready to seize you and hustle you inside for the full treatment. 

Pendergast's establishment was one of the reputable places of the West 
Bottoms. Its genial host catered less to the traveling public than to the 
men who worked in the railroad yards and shops, the mills and the. 
packing plants. His relationship with Union Avenue was primarily "po- 
litical. Within several years after he established himself on St. Louis 
Avenue, he won recognition as a figure in Democratic affairs by de- 
livering a large number of West Bottoms votes to a successful candidate 
for mayor. He moved uptown to a larger saloon at 508 Main Street but 
retained his property on St. Louis Avenue. His popularity grew as he 
took the lead in opposing agitation for reform on Union Avenue and 
other lively spots in the West Bottoms. 

The pressure for more decorum increased steadily, for Kansas City 
was growing up rapidly and beginning to settle down. On the crest of 
the West Bluff above Union Avenue was Kersey Coates's Quality Hill 
with his exclusive residential quarter and his Broadway with its luxury 


hotel and its Grand Opera House. The hotel, called the Coates House, 
had copper-roofed towers, a white marble swimming pool in the base- 
ment, and red plush, mirrors and marble in between. The Opera House 
was large and ornate, designed to accommodate the leading road shows 
from New York. Stage stars came to the theater and the hotel was filled 
with cattle barons, meat packers, capitalists from the East, gamblers and 
politicians. Guests looked out upon a cow pond and a Broadway al- 
ternately deep in dust or mud. One guest from the East, so the story goes, 
stepped outside the Coates House after a Missouri shower and was 
startled to see a man standing up to his chin in mud. 

"My poor fellow," exclaimed the visitor, "let me help you." 

"Oh, I'm all right, mister," said the man in the mud. "I'm standing 
on top of a hack. But mebbe you better do something for my passenger." 

There were more cows, horses, mules, goats and dogs than people in 
the streets, and the bullfrogs in the cow ponds filled the night air with 
rustic sound, but the activity on the Hill and beyond to the east and south- 
ward made it plain that Kansas City was becoming a place of culture 
and refinement, with everything up to date. 

The roar of industry in the West Bottoms also grew louder and Mr. 
Pendergast became a very busy man serving the social and political in- 
terests of the Kawsmouth toilers and businessmen. New industries 
crowded out the residences in this section, and work and recreation were 
equally strenuous. The entertainment activity reached its height on 
West Ninth Street near the Missouri-Kansas state line, The service there 
became so popular that it eventually produced the Wettest Block in the 
World. It had twenty-four buildings and twenty-three of them were 

Jim Pendergast was instrumental in keeping the reform out of this 
hard-working, hard-drinking locality for many years. Then a crusading 
governor forced the police to interfere and they reduced the number of 
sajoons in the wettest block to thirteen. That number was regarded as a 
bad omen by the saloonkeepers and gamblers, and their forebodings 
were borne out several years later when the building of Kansas City's 
prcseat Union Station southeast of the Bottoms killed Union Avenue 
and threw a pall over the whole social life of the West Bottoms. The 
wake, held on Union Avenue on Halloween, 1914, was a carouse that 


inspired awed recollection for another twenty years, but the actual 
mourning was not prolonged. The change didn't come too soon, since 
industry needed the room for the expansion that fulfilled the famous 
prophecy of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, the Champion of the West 
and Hard Money. Standing on a Kansas City hill in 1852, he had called 
for fast action in the building of this "grand manufacturing and com- 
mercial community," where these rocky bluffs meet and turn aside the 
sweeping currents of the mighty Missouri. 


'TvE GOT a lot of friends," said Jim Pendergast to a friendly newspaper- 
man who liked his beer and conversation. "And, by the way, that's all 
there is to this boss business friends. You can't coerce people into doing 
things for you you can't make them vote for you. I never coerced any- 
body in my life. Whenever you see a man bulldozing anybody he 
doesn't last long. Still, I've been called a boss. All there is to it is having 
friends, doing things for people^ and then later on they'll do things for 

Jim Pendergast introduced the friendship-in-politics ideal on a scale 
never before known in Kansas City society. The mutual benefit prin- 
ciple acquired the force of doctrine in the Democratic faction which the 
saloonkeeper controlled. He honestly detested an ingrate and infused 
his followers with his own fanatical spirit of personal loyalty. Anyone 
accepted into his company was thereafter committed to work unswerv- 
ingly for the common cause or suffer ostracism or worse. 

Although the mercenary aspect of this movement was always pro- 
nounced, Pendergast was a genuinely friendly man. His round, ruddy 
face was a picture of Irish amiability and his heavy black mustache did 
not hide his easy smile. His voice was soft. He was usually at ease. The 
only sign he gave of anger was the swift vanishing of his smile. His 
angers were rare, but not light, affairs. His exceedingly agreeable manner 
covered but did not conceal a personality of uncommon forcefulness. 
The blend of sentiment and authority in his character made him a leader 
of the puddling gang before he became a kndlord and a politician. He 


was twenty years old when he came down to Kansas City from the river 
town o St. Joseph, Missouri, where his parents had settled, when he was 
two years old, and reared a family of nine children. Jim, the second child, 
had been born in Gallipolis, Ohio. 

"I'm from Gallipolis," he was fond of saying. "That name's a joke," he 
added, and his hearers laughed with him. 

Puddler Jim became a sort of private banker for the workingmen in 
the West Bottoms and thereby he rose to power. In his saloon he es- 
tablished the system of cashing the paychecks of railroad men and pack- 
ing-house workers. Greenbacks were scarce in those days. Jim installed a 
large safe and filled it, paydays, with silver and paper. The workers got 
into the habit of going to Jim's place to get their warrants and checks 
turned into spendable cash. They spent some of it across the bar but Jim 
did not make that a requisite. Men learned that he had an interest in 
humanity outside of business and that he could be trusted, and they re- 
turned the favor by patronizing his saloon and giving him their confi- 

The genial saloonkeeper spread harmony and Democratic unity over 
precincts that had been the hotly contested battleground of the Hickeys, 
the Kelleys, the Gaffneys and the Burnetts. Those Irish were notable ex- 
ponents of packing-house election rules, which were based on the prem- 
ise that the voter's life is necessarily hazardous and muscle must be em- 
ployed to determine the will of the majority. Pendergast was versed in 
those rules, but he depended primarily on his popularity and his skill 
in trading favors and making alliances to promote his interests. 

Expanding with the town, Pendergast opened his Main Street saloon, 
a block south of Market Square, a year before he became alderman from 
the First Ward. From his uptown seat he continued his helpful ways to 
the voting masses, but his saloon there was not a workingman's resort. 
It was a headquarters for businessmen, lawyers, contractors, boss gam- 
blers and officeholders from the City Hall and Courthouse. Jim. was as 
popular with these operators as he was with the leaders of shirtsleeve 
society in the West Bottoms. 

After a decade devoted to doing favors for others, Jim asked for and 
received the public recognition that was his due. He stepped up to take 
his akkrmanic seat in 1892, in a moment of great and unnatural peace, 


when the city was agitated by nothing more than the normal differences 
between Republicans and Democrats, and the Democrats felt that a new 
era of good feeling was dawning because their ticket in the city campaign 
was supported by the fiery Colonel Nelson of the Star. The truculent 
and meddlesome Colonel followed a line which he called "independent 
but not neutral/* which was very confusing to the party leaders and often 
worked out to the disadvantage of the local Democrats. They won the 
Star's approval in '92 by supporting charter amendments which the 
Colonel demanded, and by nominating for mayor a plausible individual 
named Will S. Cowherd, who later went on to Congress. 

Pendergast strode on the stage as alderman and King of the First 
Ward at the very time that an ambitious effort was being made to dis- 
courage boss politicians through electoral reform. A month before the 
city election was held, the town approved a set of charter amendments, 
one of which provided that the parties nominate aldermen in each ward 
at a primary election, setting up machinery that was supposed to give the 
unorganized voter a voice in the selection of candidates. The prevailing 
method of making nominations was known as the "mob primary,** 
which was simply a mass meeting managed by the party bosses, usually 
held in a beer garden or a hall next door to a saloon, and controlled by 
the faction with the huskiest and most impassioned ward heelers. One 
of the principal advocates of the electoral reform was Nelson's Star. 
Curiously enough, another was the boss of the First, Jim Pendergast. 
The new system depressed some of the old politicians, who depended on 
convention tricks and rushing tactics for their success, but it actually 
strengthened the position of Pendergast, who excelled in delivering 

Alderman Jim demonstrated more emphatically that he was the com- 
ing man in Kansas City Democracy two years later (1894) when he was 
one of the two Democratic candidates who survived the holocaust 
brought on by Colonel Nelson's disappointment with the Cowherd ad- 
ministration and the abrupt ending of Democratic factional peace. While 
the party debacle hurried to its climax, Alderman Jim stood serenely 
in the First Ward surrounded by his many friends. The rugged nature of 
the Kansas City political competition was displayed in several ways ia lht$ 
campaign, with the Republicans selecting the occasion to show that tfaey 


could be tougher than the Democrats. The G.O.P. lined up with the 
notorious AJP.A. (American Protective Association), .the Ku Kluxers of 
the period, who climaxed the campaign with a gun battle. The election- 
day massacre occurred in the Fifth Ward, a district usually controlled by 
Fighting Jim Pryor, a saloonkeeper and building contractor with a large 
Irish following. John Pryor, eighteen-year-old son of Fighting Jim and 
friend of young Tom Pendergast, and later one of his important business 
associates, set off hostilities when he converted a voter to the Democratic 
cause. His subject was an elderly German and the word got around that 
Big John Pryor had been so forceful in his electioneering that the old 
German was frightened into abandoning long-standing Republican con- 
victions. The A.P.A. brigade, armed with deputy constable commissions 
and rifles, immediately set out to punish the Irish for this outrage, and 
soon captured John Pryor. The Fifth Ward boss's son was being hustled 
away to an uncertain fate when a bunch of the boys at Scanlan's saloon 
heard of his arrest and rushed joyously to the rescue. The two armies met 
on the Summit Street Bridge over the Belt Line. In their haste or be- 
cause of overconfidence in their prowess in a free-for-all, the Irish neg- 
lected to supply themselves adequately with firearms, only one possessing 
a pistol. The A.P.A. men were well armed with Winchesters and when 
the smoke cleared one good Democrat lay dead and six were severely 
wpunded. There was only one casualty on the other side. 

When the votes were counted, the Republican ticket had a handsome 
majority except in two river wards controlled by Pendergast and his 
allies. This was the beginning of a six-year period of Republican domina- 
tion of municipal affairs, a run of success which resulted, in considerable 
part, from the Democratic factional disputes. Alderman Pendergast con- 
tinued to gain in prestige and influence throughout this lean time for 
his party in local affairs, producing majorities that startled veterans in 
the vote-getting trade. He finally was credited with carrying a thousand 
votes in his vest pocket, and Republican managers complained that 
hundreds of his followers crossed the state line from ICansas to vote for 
him on election day. He grew accustomed to hearing charges of intimi- 
dation of voters and ballot-box stuffing, and dismissed them with a 
smile and a shrug. 

"I aever'needed a crooked vote," he told a Star reporter who inter- 


viewed him late in his career. "All I want is a chance for my friends to get 
to the polls." 

Charges that he loaded the city payrolls with his friends and supporters 
and that he worked to turn city business to firms or individuals in the 
party's favor did not disturb him, for he regarded these spoils as the 
legitimate rewards of work for the Democratic cause. But he had a code 
of ethics which he observed rigorously and which excluded the boss him- 
self from political boodle. He boasted proudly that he never took a cent 
in exchange for a political favor and not even his enemies challenged his 
reputation on that score. 

The Pendergast command developed into an efficient team when Jim 
called his three brothers from St. Joseph John, Mike and Tom. John 
was a quiet and steady man who was completely happy running the 
saloon on Main Street. Mike exhibited special adaptability as a rough-and- 
tumble man, as an organizer of ward clubs and a public jobholder. Tom 
exhibited exceptional talent for all phases of the Pendergast enterprises 
in politics and commerce. 

Young Tom, sixteen years younger than the Alderman, attained voting 
age a year after Jim took office in the lower house of the City Council. He 
"appeared on the scene after completing his schooling. He spent more 
time in school than any of the other brothers, going from a St. Joseph 
school to St. Mary's College in Kansas, where he distinguished himself 
a* an athlete rather than a scholar. His baseball fielding and batting 
averages were so good that they attracted the attention of a professional 
league scout and he was offered a bush league contract. Family opposi- 
tion kept him from becoming an early Babe Ruth. 

The traits of character that peculiarly fitted Jim Pendergast for the 
role of political boss were intensified in Tom, but there were some 
marked differences. During his apprenticeship as an election worker, he 
was assigned to the toughest precincts and won the respect and friend- 
ship of the workingmen in the river wards. In the Pendergast saloons, 
where he worked as an efficient bookkeeper, he was a favorite among 
politicians, sportsmen and businessmen. The gamblers early admitted 
Ifim to their fraternity and his special interest in horse racing, which 
later dominated his life and contributed largely to his ruin, probably was 
/greatly stimulated during the period when he worked as cashier in a 


Pendergast liquor concession at a race track. The effort to pick another 
Climax continued for almost a half-century before it rounded out the 
gambler's cycle. 

The main difference between the brothers was suggested by their 
voices. Jim's light baritone was the voice of the mediator, the promoter 
of sociability and goodwill. Tom's heavy bass was the trumpet blast of 
a fighter. He was a blue-eyed, light-haired heavyweight who stood five 
feet nine inches, weighed around two hundred pounds and exuded 
energy from every pore. His head was planted on a short, thick neck 
which had the rugged look of an oak tree trunk." The impression of 
hugeness about him was emphasized by his face. It was a massive face 
great jaw, large mouth and nose. He looked both formidable and en- 
gaging, for there was a humorous glint in his eyes, a jaunty air in his 
bearing and a sentimental quality in his expression along with the 
dominating impression of savage power. The total effect made him one 
of the most arresting figures ever observed in Kansas City. He drew at- 
tention wherever he went and men remembered him from one look. 

The devastating force of Tom Pendergast 's fists and his ferocity when 
crossed were early impressed on the citizens of the river wards. His 
skill and daring in the manly art of self-defense did not diminish his 
popularity with the men of the West Bottoms and Market Square, but 
brute force was secondary in the list of his qualifications for the wor|f 
he had selected the first was intelligence. Alderman Jim watched with 
approval while his young brother balanced the books in his saloons, 
made friends with the public and the important men, familiarized him- 
self with the needs and interests of the North Side, and endeavored to 
emulate Jim in practising the ways of peace, compromise and self-con- 
trol. It was early evident that he was being trained to take over the throne 
of the King of the First. 


MIKE AND TOM PENDERGAST learned the political routine rapidly and 
found all aspects of the business both fascinating and stimulating to 
young men who hoped to get ahead in the world, but they soon saw 


that they were not getting the rewards or government to which they were 
entitled. They did not hold the public responsible for this lack o recog- 
nition. The trouble was Joe Shannon, who was building up a monopoly 
in the Courthouse and endeavoring to lower Pendergast prestige in the 
City Hall. Inasmuch as the more attractive prospects in jobs with fees, 
commissions and salaries were then in the Courthouse, something had to 
be done to reverse the Shannon, or Rabbit, trend. 

The depth o the difference between the two> principal Democratic fac- 
tions in Jackson County was something an -outsider could not readily 
appreciate, but it was suggested by the names of the rival groups Rabbits 
and Goats. These popular designations were coined in the early days 
when the majority of the Pendergast following were Irish folk from the 
old sod who lived on the West Bluff in the laboring-class neighborhood 
that grew up around the residental quarter of the Quality Hill nabobs. 
Many of these Irish families kept goats, which had no respect for private 
property or class distinctions and made themselves a public nuisance. The 
Shannon workers lived over the Hill, in what was then the southeast 
part of the town and is now near the center of the downtown business 
section. Their homes were close to the wooded bottoms in the valley of 
O. K. Creek, where rabbits and other small game frolicked. 

In the heat of a campaign an opposition orator called the Pendergast 
partisans Goats, after their numerous animal pets. Jim Pendergast liked 
goats and happily accepted them as a symbol of his faction's devotion to 
freedom and other liberal ideals. Leading his delegation on a march to a 
convention for a battle with the Shannon boys, he roared: "When we 
come over the hill like goats, they'll run like rabbits." When the contest 
was over the Goats had seized control of the City Hall, ousting the 
Shannon men from their easy jobs. It was a cold April day when winter 
fingered into spring and snow covered the ground. "What will become of 
the poor fellows who are losing their jobs?" some tenderhearted citizen 
asked. "They'll eat snow, like the rabbits," said a Goat. 

The names were appropriate in many ways. The Pendergast Goats 
were rugged, combative, clannish and always hungry. The Shannon Rab- 
bits were fleet, deceptive and prolific. The Rabbits also had large appe- 
tites. They ate snow no oftener than the Goats were compelled to subsist 
on tin cans. 


The Daddy Rabbit, the Honorable Joseph B. Shannon, was ten years 
younger than the Chief Whiskers of the Goats but politically was quite 
as mature as the North Side boss. He made himself the Czar of the Ninth 
Ward while Pendergast was establishing- himself as King of the First. 
The same year that Jim became an alderman, Joe went on the city payroll 
as market master. It was an appointive position, and a Republican revival 
limited Mr. Shannon's incumbency to one term. He wasn't able or in- 
clined to match Alderman Jim's record for official connection with gov- 
ernment in the early period, but he was on the political stage throughout 
Jim's time and held his stand there until the last days of the machine 
under Big Tom. He was sometimes down, frequently up, usually in the 
spotlight. He saw it all and had much to do with shaping the peculiar 
style and character of Jackson County politics. At the finish he served a 
twelve-year turn as a congressman the Great JefEersonian from Jackson 
County and although he did not have much time left to live when the 
Kansas City machine fell apart, he stood around trying to pick up the 
pieces. When he finally shuffled off after a half -century in the hustings,, 
he was a silver-haired, benevolent figure, full of practical wisdom, humor 
and sentiment Uncle Joe to everyone, in or out of politics. 

Like Jim Pendergast, Joe Shannon belonged to a large Irish family 
there were eight Shannon children. Like so many of the individuals who 
figured in the Kansas City political and business life, he was traveling 
west when chance directed him to this bustling community at Kaws- 
mouth. Joe's father was a railroad contractor and his death in a train 
collision in Kansas was the incident that brought about the family's move 
to Kansas City. The Widow Shannon and her eight children arrived at 
the Union Depot one night in 1879. She found friendly people who 
helped her to get established in the neighborhood of Fifteenth Street and 
Tracy Avenue. The Shannons were poor in everything except character 
and ingenuity. The older boys got jobs to provide a meager income for 
their mother. Joe quit school at twelve to contribute his small part to- 
ward the grocery bill. He and his brothers were good workers but the 
family's industriousness was less remarkable than its fighting quality and 
its political talent. 

The Shannon boys discovered that they were living in the Ninth Ward 
an'l that it was the largest ward in the city, controlling one fifth o the 

36 * TOM'S TOWN 

delegates in conventions proportioned to the population. Long before he 
was of voting age, Joe was an experienced politician. The Shannon home 
became political headquarters for the Ninth Ward, and every time the 
family sat down for the evening meal there was a Democratic caucus. 
Their section of the city became known an Shannonville. 

Joe Shannon inherited the family leadership upon the death of Frank, 
oldest of the brothers, a stonemason and a force in union politics. Under 
Joe's direction, Shannonville spread its influence over two wards in the 
city and extended its power into the county through alliances with party 
men in Independence, the old county scat". 

Mr. Shannon made local politics a very involved and exciting business. 
He was as rugged a character as Jim Pendergast, almost as rugged as 
Tom. He endeavored to play the role of pacifier, like Alderman Jim, 
which was fortunate for the public peace as there was always more than 
enough disturbance in his domain. The respect he inspired in friend or 
foe was illustrated by an incident in the tumultuous election of '94, when 
Joe alone cowed an A.P.A. mob. An angry crowd gathered around a 
voting booth after someone circulated a report that the Shannon boys 
had broken open a ballot box and were stuffing it. When Joe Shannon 
appeared in the doorway, the would-be rioters abandoned their plan to 
raid the booth in favor of an investigation. He stood there, saying noth- 
ing and smiling coolly on the crowd until his commanding presence had 
tempered A.P.A. suspicions and indignation. 

Mental and physical agility were nicely balanced in the person of the 
Rabbit leader. In one election he was arrested for exhibiting muscular 
dexterity in ejecting a Republican and a Populist watcher from a voting 
,booth at the same moment. One of these individuals filed assault charges 
against Shannon in police court and Joe handled his own defense. He was 
educating himself to be a lawyer and was anxious to demonstrate his 
progress before his followers. His defense was that the complaining wit- 
ness had picked a fight after Shannon gave him a friendly pat on the 
back, "Like this,'* said Joe, seizing the complainant and hurling him 
across the courtroom. The injured party bellowed with rage and charged 
at Shannon, the courtroom spectators roared with laughter and the police 
judge admitted that the Rabbit chief had proved his case, thereby escap- 
ing a five-hundred-dollar fine. 


Joe Shannon was more versatile than either Jim or Tom Pendergast 
and, although he scattered his efforts when it seemed that he might have 
more profitably concentrated on organization matters, for a long time 
he threatened to overshadow his opponents from the North Side. His 
skill in planning coups was of a superior order and he delighted in in- 
trigue. His plots and ambushes rather consistently advanced the Shannon 
cause although they frequently wrecked the Democratic Party. 

The No. i Rabbit took the lead in promoting the long factional dis- 
order which brought about the final collapse of the Combine, an outfit 
that had dominated things political for more than a decade. Both Shan- 
non and Pendergast worked in and with the Combine, on occasion, in 
the years when they were rising to the command, and their disagreement 
with that early machine had nothing to do with reform sentiment but 
grew out of the struggle for power. Dissolution of the Combine marked 
an important step in the evolution of boss politics. From the wreckage 
Shannon and Pendergast emerged with enhanced power and prestige. 

Once the stage was cleared for the main bout between the Goats and 
the Rabbits, the political struggle grew in intensity, with many interesting 
variations being introduced by Jim Pendergast's brothers, Mike and 
Tom, and many complications provided by Colonel Nelson of the Star* 


WHEN the Nonpartisan reform wrecked the Pendergast machine in 
1940, few of the earnest workers in the cause paused to note that it had 
taken a half -century of vast agitation to bring about this event, and none 
thought to pay tribute to the man chiefly responsible for it. The move- 
ment that unhorsed Big Tom actually got under way a short time after 
William Rockhill Nelson arrived in Kansas City and it was operating 
vigorously in 1894, in the same election that eliminated the Combine and 
marked the emergence of Jim Pendergast and Joe Shannon as bosses of a 
new ordf r. In that campaign the candidate representing the Nelson-sup- 
ported Nonpartisan ticket finished third. Colonel Nelson was not in the 
least dismayed by the defeat of his independent champion. Instead he 
was moved to issue an optimistic prophecy. Vindication of the non- 


partisan idea "does not depend on the result of one canvass/' he declared 
in his newspaper. "It will succeed in the end because it is right and be- 
cause it is an odious reflection upon the honesty and intelligence of the 
people to assume that they will lofrg continue to favor a system which 
eliminates the business idea from municipal government.*' 

The Nelson doctrine that "municipal government is purely a business 
affair 5 * was such a hateful expression of the commercial spirit to both 
Alderman Pendergast and Shannon that they eventually banded together 
to oppose the spread of this philosophy. Their evangelism for pure Demo- 
cratic partisanship (first) and the two-party system (second) was earnest 
and colorful and it is easy to believe that the independent-but-not-neutral 
heresy could not have prevailed or even survived in Kansas City if any- 
body but Bill Nelson had espoused it. 

Various experts have tried to estimate the size of the disturbance cre- 
ated by the political crusader and builder from Indiana who founded the 
Star. One historian determined that there were two factors accounting 
for the phenomenal development of Kansas City the great bend of the 
Missouri at Kawsi&outh and Nelson. 

Julian Street interviewed Nelson for a national magazine and left with 
the impression that he had been in the presence of a volcano. "He is even, 
shaped like one," Street wrote. The editor tapered upward from a vast 
Waist to a snow-capped peak and when he opened his mouth a Vesuvian 
rumbling came forth. William Allen White, handing down a final opin- 
ion in an article for Collier's wrote: "Mr. Nelson literally gave color to 
the life and thought and aspirations of ten millions of people living be- 
tween the Missouri River and the Rio Grande*" 

Nelson's associates and admirers called him Colonel. "Not that he was 
ever a colonel of anything," explained White, who worked for Nelson 
before he moved to Kansas to make the Emporia Gazette famous. "He 
was just coloniferous." The Colonel's enemies called him Baron Bill and 
the Baron of Brush Creek, titles suggested by his bearing and his real 
estateJioldi|igs which were on a baronial scale. The accolade of nobility 
was intended as^a terin of derision but didn't have that effect, for every- 
one thought of Nelson as the Baron even when they called him Colonel. 

Nelson was a Hqosier with a good middle-class background based 00 
several generations of property owning. There was a family legend of 


aristocratic English connections and Baron Bill liked to think that Lord 
Nelson, the hero of Trafalgar, was one of his ancestors. He occasionally 
spoke of "Uncle Horatio" in a joking manner, but no one took the allu- 
sion too lightly for the sea lord who made a monkey out of Napoleon 
would obviously have been proud to acknowledge kinship with the 
booster who put Kawsmouth on the map. 

He was thirty-nine years old when he came to Kansas City and already 
had managed one successful career as a businessman, amassing a sizable 
fortune as a real estate operator, bridge builder and contractor. A large 
part of that first pile was lost in a disastrous cotton plantation, venture in 
the South. Nelson entered the newspaper field as an owner of the Fort 
Wayne, Indiana, Sentinel a year before he saw his big chance in Kansas 
City. He and his partner, Samuel E. Morss, sold out their Fort Wayne 
holdings and put their capital in a new Kansas City paper, the Evening 
Star, which started its long run under Nelson, September 18, i88o> witli 
a brashness that amused the established newspaper proprietors. 

There were two morning and two other evening papers in the Kansas- 
City field at the time but an evening paper was still a novelty in 1880 and 
Nelson's Evening Star was greeted with some derision by the morning 
newspapermen, who dubbed it the Twilight Twinkler. Eugene Field, 
poet, columnist and antic spirit, then working as editor of the morning 
Times, suggested the nickname with this verse: 

Twinkle, twinkle, little Star, 
Bright and gossipy you are; 
We can daily hear you speak 
For a paltry dime a week. 

The Evening Star was well on its way to domination of the whole field 
before the opposition realized that a new era had dawned. The Star 
absorbed the Times in 1901. 

Nelson quickly bought up his partner's interest in order to have a com- 
pletely free hand. He could never bear the thought of the Star having any 
other voice than his own. 

"The Starr he said repeatedly and firmly, "is the Daily W. R. Nelson." 

Readers of the Star had the impression that Nelson was speaking to 
thcpa personally each afternoon, and twice a day after he added the Times 


as the morning issue of the Star. They could hear the great voice booming 
and feel the power of his personality even though they never saw him. 
Few saw him, in fact, after he was well established. He avoided lunch- 
cons, clubs and political meetings, partly because he was somewhat self' 
conscious in the public gaze, but mostly for the reason that he liked to sit 
in the Star office and let people come to him. Although he didn't do any 
of the writing, Nelson's stamp was on every line in his paper. He out- 
lined what he wanted the Star to say, and because he spoke clearly and 
colorfully, many of his own words got into the copy. He imposed 
anonymity on all other members of the staff so that nothing might inter- 
fere with the communication between the people and the Daily Nelson. 

Foundation of the Colonel's success was the cut-rate principle. He 
offered the Star for two cents an issue against the standard price of a 
nfckel a copy. He had to import a large supply of pennies to make change 
for the customers, and Nelson's kegs filled with shining coppers appeared, 
to accustom this free-spending community to the idea that the penny 
was useful for other purposes than buying licorice sticks. Nelson built 
up volume at two cents a day and a dime a week for regular subscribers. 
He edited his paper according to the formula that the public didn't want 
glaring headlines, half-tones, comics and sports news but was hungry 
for lots of particulars about their neighbors' business. He devised a con- 
servative format, which he considered artistic and which outsiders gen- 
erally describe as odd or quaint. In this dress the Star furnished all the 
details, from murders, triangles and business operations to the activities 
of dogs and bjuebirds and the antics of babies, presenting these happen- 
ings along with tasty literary and educational items clipped from books 
and magazines. 

Mr. Nelson had arrived in Kansas City prepared for a strenuous fight 
with the politicians and he had picked a place where- he could get a 
maximum amount of action for his money. His Quarrel with the party 
regulars had roots that extended to New York and the early battles 
against Tammany Hall. The Baron was himself a" Democrat but not 
one of the. Jackson County variety. His hero was not Andy Jackson of 
Tennessee but Sam Tilden of Gramercy Park, New York, nemesis of 
the Tweed Ring and the Canal Ring. Nelson served as Tilden's cam- 
paign manager in Indiana when the New Yorker ran for President in 


1876. Tilden won in the actual balloting but was counted out by one 
electoral vote when Congress was called on to settle a dispute over the 
returns from four states* Nelson renounced affiliation with the Demo- 
cratic Party in 1880, the year he started his paper in Kansas City. There 
is a legend that his bolt was induced by pique over the failure of the 
Democrats to offer Tilden a second nomination, but the practical con- 
sideration was that the independent line gave him a free hand in the 
task of subduing the bosses of both parties to the Nelson will. 
/ The Tilden influence was important, however, in Nelson's develop- 
ment as a reformer. He found that most of the evils of corrupt politics 
encountered by Tilden in New York were duplicated in Missouri. The 
parallel was so exact, in fact, that he used Tilden's biography,* giving 
his account of his battles with the Tweed Ring and the Canal Ring, as 
a Star campaign textbook in one of Missouri's greatest political battles. 
That was the campaign of 1904 which brought the Folk reform, and 
was toward the end of Nelson's career; but long before that, the pub- 
lisher had discovered' that the machine operation was highly developed 
in this Middle Western region. It included some rackets not adequately 
described in Tilden's reports, and Publisher Nelson had to devise 
methods of his own to oppose the Little Louisiana Lottery, the policy 
gambling gyp, the traction monopoly, the gas gouge, the loan shark 
steal, the legal fee grab, the bunco game routine, the paving graft and 
other profitable promotions of a fast-growing community which had an 
untrammeled sense of freedom. 

The politicians immediately discovered that the Baron had the disposi-* 
tion and capacity for the rough-and-tumble style favored by the Kaws- 
mouth partisans. Since the antagonists were about equally matched, these 
struggles were both long and fierce. A classic example is the battle^ with 
the traction interests, which raged through the thirty-five years of Nel- 
son's career in Kansas City. Nelson led off by putting down the Corrigan 
mule car line monopoly when it attempted to block franchises for the new 
cable lines and at the same time extend its own exclusive concession. The 
Star routed the mule car reactionaries by promoting a "hanging party'* 
for the aldermen controlled by the Corrigan interests. Fastening the label 

* The Life of Samuel, /. Tilden, by John Bigelow, 2 vols., 1895- 


of the Shameless Eight on the men who took Corrigan's orders, the paper 
took the lead in organizing a committee of safety headed by the town's 
leading citizen. Colonel Kersey Coates, and the vigilante spirit ran high. 
A mass meeting of citizens "with ropes" was called for the night when 
the Council was expected to act on the franchise matter and the Shame- 
less Eight lost their nerve. Corrigan's mules lost out and Kansas City got 
cable cars to speed the wheels of progress, but the cable line interests 
formed a monopoly and the battle was shortly resumed. 

The Star used fighting words with such abandon that its editor in- 
curred a'definite personal risk. His critics found that he was fearless and 
well protected. One of the notable exhibitions in this field was given 
when Joseph J. Davenport, who served a term as mayor in 1889 and 
tried unsuccessfully to make a comeback in 1892, called at the Star office 
to settle issues with the Baron in the manly way. Editor Nelson was at 
his desk in his private office on the second floor when Mr. Davenport 
hove into sight, dark and menacing. Nelson moved with an agility sur- 
prising-in one of his bulk but, in his haste to square off or get out of 
range, he got his feet tangled in his chair and was helpless for one awful 

Whether the Colonel was actually struck or not remains a question to 
this day, for there are two versions on that point of the encounter. There 
is, however, general agreement on what followed. Four men, stout and 
true, arrived in time to form-an adequate reception committee for Mr. 
Davenport. They included T. W. Johnston, managing editor, Ralph 
Stout, city editor, William Allen White, reporter and editorial writer, and 
a telegrapher named Phillips. Between them they ousted the former 
mayor, or rather they threw him to the landing halfway down the stairs 
to the first floor. When the ex-official landed he looked up and saw Ralph 
Stout in a throwing posture, holding a cuspidor and Mr. Davenport is 
supposed to have cried out: 

"Drop that cuspidor, Ralph Stout! Put that spittoon down!" 

It was also reported that Mr. Davenport had a pistol and made a ges- 
ture of using it but the testimony on that point is not conclusive. One 
veteran of the Star, Charles I. Blood, who joined the staff in 1887, became 
the paper's best-known city editor and still is in harness, doubts that 
Davenport tried any gunplay. If he had, says Charlie Blood, he would 


have been potted by Bill Campbell, stockyards reporter, who was sta- 
tioned at the top of the stairs in an alcove, drawing a bead with a long- 
barrelled pearl-handled six-shooter. 

"The Star never loses/' Colonel Nelson informed his staff.' That 
remark had a humorous sound, as it was usually uttered just after the 
paper had taken a drubbing at the polls. 

Defeat never discouraged the Baron, but it did put him in a rage and 
filled him with a deep suspicion that he had been cheated at the polls. 
This made him a remarkably efficient watchdog of the voting places and 
produced a ^series of election scandals that early accustomed Kansas 
Citians to the idea that their political organizations were extraordinarily 
corrupt. The Star's extremely lurid and elaborate accounts of election 
thievery and thuggery served the double purpose of intimidating the 
politicians and discrediting them, building up a reservoir of public wrath 
which the newspaper exploded at the proper time. Nelson showed the 
effectiveness of this kind of crusading in memorable fashion in the county 
campaigns of '92 and '94, when he warred to wrest control of the prose- 
cutor's office from the Combine, which was much too tolerant of gam- 
bling and vice conditions to suit the Star editor. The newspaper lost the 
first round but made a tremendous scandal over the conduct of the elec- 
tion, in which Scar-Faced Charley Johnson, the celebrated bunco artist, 
and his troupe of traveling crooks appear to have taken a conspicuous 
'part. This agitation contributed to the defeat of the Democrats two years 
later and prepared the ground for a violent public outburst, which oc- 
curred when the newspaper trumpeted disclosures of a crude conspiracy 
to steal the offices of county prosecutor and marshal for the Democrats. 
Forgeries were committed in the official returns after the unofficial count 
had shown a clear victory for the Republicans. With Nelson's paper fur- 
nishing the thunder and lightning, a committee of safety was organized, 
mass meetings were held, lynch talk was encouraged and a large prosecu- 
tion fund raised. A grand jury returned twenty-one indictments for elec- 
tion frauds, twelve politicians fled town and one committed suicide. The 
Jackson County men played Courthouse politics for keeps. 

Baron Bill's battle with the party organizers and demagogues entered 
a curious phase with his greatest single civic undertaking, which was the 
building of ( Kansas City's beautiful parks and extensive boulevards* With 


the politicians playing a dual role, offering both resistance and assistance 
to the construction, this program eventually produced 4,025 acres of parks 
and 119 miles of boulevards in a continuous system. All of it has grown 
upon the foundations that Nelson and his generation built, and a large 
part of it was created or projected during his lifetime. In fact, the town 
had no park property whatever and no boulevards when he arrived on 
the scene. Citizens were still falling from the mountains and burying 
themselves in the mud and Mr. Nelson immediately saw that Herculean 
measures would be required to get the town over the hill and out of the 
mire. The superhuman spirit for grading, widening and paving was what 
Bill Nelson had. 

"Great as was the greatest of the Caesars, greatest was he as a road 
builder," said a Nelson editorial. "Civilization treads established thor- 
oughfares. Literature must have circulation or be impotent. Art cannot 
ennoble or uplift or delight the multitude it cannot reach." The Star was 
civilization, literature and art, and, by God, Mr. Nelson meant to have 
a large circulation. The Caesar of modern transportation in the Middle 
West served notice on the taxpayers of what was coming, in an early issue 
o his paper. "The pinching economy, the picayunish policy, the miser- 
able parsimony, which characterize our city government must be aban- 
doned," he proclaimed. "Kansas City needs good streets, good sidewalks, 
good sewers, decent public buildings, better street lights, more fire pro- 
tection, a more efficient police and many other things." 

The town got more streets, sidewalks, sewers and other things but it 
seldom had peace again. Builder Nelson fortunately found a company 
of tireless park, paving and sewer men ready and anxious to work with 
him. He discovered an architectural genius when he invited a young 
engineer and architect by the name of George E. Kessler (later architect 
of the St. Louis World's Fair) to submit a plan for the improvement of 
West Bluff. Kessler discarded all conventional ideas of landscaping as 
inadequate for this project, producing a plan that adapted parks and 
boulevards to the Kansas City terrain rather than attempting to make 
nature conform to man's ideas of order and prettiness. 

The park-and-boulevard vision rnoved August R. Meyer, a mine and 
smelter fowner, to devote his life to the Nelson cause. He proved to be a 
great evangelist and was surrounded by a band of vigorous disciples 


recruited from various businesses and professions that naturally take a 
special interest in building contracts. Pure altruism and private interest 
were combined in a very effective way in this cause, as was illustrated in 
the case of Nelson himself. The newspaperman engaged in extensive 
real estate operations at the same time that he used his Star to inspire 
civic improvements. The dramatic size of his ambition was shown when 
he took twenty acres south of the city to build a massive stone house, 
called Oak Hall, on a wooded hill above Brush Creek, in a region that 
was supposed to have no future except for pig farming. No ' one but 
Baron Bill expected that the Kansas City enterprise would ever reach 
that far south. He hurried the movement his way by laying out miles of 
streets, building miles of decorative stone walls and planting miles of 
elm trees at his own expense. These activities entailed large investments 
on which there was no prospect of early profit but Nelson did not expect 
or seek to make his fortune from real estate. His aim was to create the 
right setting for more happy Star subscribers and advertisers. * 

Nelson and his associates encountered terrific resistance from loafers 
and taxpayers who felt that the proper limits of progress had been 
reached, and the result was a civic disorder that extended over many 
years. Those of the people who didn't want new paving, sewers and 
parks were organized by Nelson into Hammer and Padlock clubs (a 
hammer for every improvement idea, a padlock on every money pocket) . 
They were flailed, scourged and browbeaten by Nelson's reporters, car- 
toonists and editorial writers as croakers, knockers, mossbacks and men 
without any redeeming qualities. In the election campaigns and court 
battles over boulevards and parks, the Star gave an awesome exhibition 
of the spirit of progress and an impressive demonstration of the news- 
paper's force in urban society, but still this was not quite enough to 
accomplish the 'desired purpose. 

During this period the party bosses had acquired considerable addi- 
tional power and prdstige, and the battles over civic improvements did 
much to enhance their importance, as the croakers and knockers turned 
to them to oppose Nelson's schemes. Fortunately for the parks and boule- 
vards, some of the influential party professionals were boosters, too. Jim 
Pendergast was a notable public improvements man. More boulevards, 
parks and .public buildings meant more jobs for his followers and the 


Alderman was credited with being the author of that great slogan of all 
up-and-coming societies: "You can't saw wood with a hammer." Another 
was Mike Ross, ward boss and contractor, who set out many of the elm 
trees lining the streets. Still another was Hugh J. McGowan, a leading 
figure in the Combine and an agent for the Barber Asphalt Company 
whose asphalt was favored by the City Council. 

The keystone of the park-and-boulevard system was established with 
the aid of political bosses who delivered the necessary votes for a price, 
providing a majority for the charter amendment which made the exten- 
sions possible. The story of that deal has been told in the Star itself in an 
article written by H. J v Haskell, the present editor, and published on the 
fiftieth anniversary of the newspaper. Editor Haskell related the incident 
as it was told by Mr. Nelson to his associates. 

Hugh McGowan called on Nelson at the height of the campaign for 
the amendment. 

"Colonel," he said, "you seem to feel strongly about this amendment." 

"It's the biggest thing that has been before Kansas City in years," was 
tte reply. 

"Well, if you want it you can have it. But it will take a little money 
for the workers." 

**Nelson became practical for the moment," the Star article explained. 
"The details were arranged and the votes were forthcoming." 

This account was published fifteen years after the Colonel's death, 
and doubtless reminded some Democrats that Nelson should have been 
more grateful than he seemed to be to the organization boys for their 
historic service in the 'cause of Kansas City expansion. It was in that 
time that he began to preach with increasing vigor the gospel that the 
party men should be ditched for the nonpartisan system favored by 
Mr. Nelson. 

, Out of this agitation grew the wedding of the Star and the Republican 
Party, which eventually became such a solid union that the Democrats 
ruefully observed that there was no Republican Party in Kansas City, 
but only the Democratic and the Star parties. This fusion was not caused 
by the fact that the G.O.P. was any Ies$ devoted to special interests, 
bcpsism and spoils than the Democratic organization. It signified mostly 


that the Republican bosses had smaller powers of resistance than the 
Democratic machine men. 

Democrats probably will not concede that the Star's interest in non- 
partisan city government had much to do with its growing favor toward 
the Republican Party. They like the simpler explanation that Nelson 
naturally became more Hamiltonian as his moneybags piled higher and 
he found the Nonpartisan scheme was useful in promoting the Re- 
publican cause. It is true, however, that his antipathy for spoils politics 
was genuine and that there was always a large measure of democratic 
liberalism mixed with his capitalistic philosophy. He demonstrated his 
independence on notable occasions in Missouri and Kansas campaigns 
and in the Bull Moose crusade with Teddy Roosevelt. If the Kansas City 
Republicans were ever actually less partisan in local affairs than the 
Democrats, it would seem that a large share of the credit should go to 
Nelson and the Star. 

One factor in the development of the long contest between the Star 
and the Pendergast organization was the growth of the saloon power in 
politics. Jim Pendergast's own financial stake in the liquor business was of 
modest size but his political following was made up largely of men whose 
main economic interest was in beer and whisky or who regarded the 
saloon as an absolutely essential social institution. The brewery and 
saloon combine had grown into a very rich and powerful vested interest 
when William Rockhill Nelson decided to declare war on it in 1905. 

The autocrat of the Star was not a prohibitionist by personal taste or 
temperament. He did not start out as an agitator for the suppression of 
the saloon, but turned that way when the liquor interests resisted reason- 
able restraints and at the same time obstructed other Nelson projects. 
This happened in 1905, when the Heim Brewery boys, the saloonkeepers 
and the Democratic boss factions lined up to defeat a new charter, con- 
taining provisions for better regulation of saloons along with measures 
for more businesslike administration in the City Hall, which the Star 
had vigorously championed. The editor read the election returns in one 
of his blacker moods. He called his business manager and ordered him 
to accept no more liquor or beer advertising in the Star. The business 
manager, who knew just how much the publisher admired the adver- 
tiser's dollar, entered an amazed protest but the painful order stood* 


Agitation for the dry cause' in Kansas City thereupon took a vigorous 
upward turn and grew steadily in the succeeding years. The propaganda 
against saloonkeepers became so derogatory that it alarmed and saddened 
Alderman Jim Pendergast. 

"The saloon business is on the bum now," he commented in a news- 
paper interview in 1907. "I'm going to be a farmer." 

He did try hisiiand at farming but at the same time he continued suc- 
cessfully to operate his saloon and his political machine. Brewers, dis- 
tillers, boss men and Democrats flourished for many years thereafter 
. despite the fact that they found it increasingly difficult to ignore the voice 
that loudly declared: "The Star never loses." 



PENDERGAST politics took on new color and significance in the period 
when James A. Reed roamed the platform as the Stormy Petrel of 
Missouri's Democracy, during which time^he served successively as 
prosecuting attorney of Jackson County for one term, mayor of Kansas 
City for two terms and United States senator for eighteen years (1911-29) . 
This was the period when great battles were fought over the issues of 
electoral, legislative and municipal reform. Prohibition and American 
isolation. Jim Reed was in the forefront of some of those struggles, 
appearing variously on the sides of reform and reaction but giving a 
consistently spectacular performance. No simple explanation or classifica- 
tion will do for Jim. The complicated character of the politician's role in 
American life and the intricacy of the political personality were demon- 
strated to a remarkable degree in his case. 

The range of the man is suggested by the numerous cognomens he 
collected. He was, first and last, Fighting Jim, Missouri's Stormy Petrel. 
For a while he was known as Woody Dell Jim, a title conferred in 
recognition of his superlative efforts to capture the votes of poetic 
Missourians by declaiming on the pastoral beauties of the Show Me 
State in campaign time. Some of his admirers hailed him as the Greatest 
Roman of Them All, finding that the conventional Noblest Roman 
designation did not adequately convey the uniqueness of Jim Reed. The 
Star under Nelson called him the Yankee from Iowa, a label whose ap- 
propriateness became more apparent in later years when he publicly 
consorted with the Republican Old Guard on two notable occasions. His 



chief Missouri Republican critic, next to Nelson, dubbed him Bridlewise 
Jim of the Pendergast stable. The national leader of his party in the 
First World War, Woodrow Wilson, branded him a marplot. Probably 
fifty per cent of the Missouri Democrats looked upon him as a stranger 
in their midst in several campaigns. But the Pendergasts believed in 
him, surrounded him with hero worship, fought for him, boomed him 
for President and never publicly complained about his party irregularity 
eyen when he turned against the Pendergasts themselves in the last days 
of the machine. 

In his old age, when he had mellowed a bit, Reed protested against 
his popular reputation as a fighter, saying that his fame as a prosecutor 
tended to obscure the constructive side of his career. His plaint was not 
considered seriously by the Missourians, They couldn't remember a time 
when Jim wasn't promoting a knockdown and dragout. 

The $tory of Reed's rise to the United States senatorship was an essen- 
tial part of the story of the Kansas City machine's genesis through a 
decade when corrupt city and state political organizations provoked a 
national revulsion, and figures like Teddy Roosevelt of New York,, 
Tom Johnson of Cleveland, Golden Rule Jones of Toledo, La Follette 
of Wisconsin and Joseph W. Folk of Missouri arose to give vigorous 
leadership to the reform movement. Nelson of Kansas City was a large 
voice in that agitation, but the Kansas City battle did not command 
national attention because the Kansas City machine was having starter 
trouble. Its development had been retarded by Baron Bill and several 
other factors including, particularly, the peculiar factional division cre- 
ated by Joe Shannon and the Rabbits. 

Up to this time, Pendergast and Shannon were still only two of several 
factional leaders in the Jackson County field, although they had been 
rising steadily in influence for years. Notice that they were advancing 
to a higher level, where their disputes for dominance overshadowed 
'other party interests, was given in the series of factional battles that 
revolved around Candidate Reed. 

The Pendergasts began to take the lead in the factional competition 
when they realized that in Reed they had dicovered a winner who could 
confound all their foes. They started their forward march with him by 
Successfully challenging Joe Shannon's power as the county boss. This 


contest was made in the campaign of 1898, when Reed ran for the office 
of county prosecutor. He won the nomination over Shannon's man, 
showed himself to be a good vote getter in the election, and established 
a record as a brilliant prosecutor. The Democratic factions met in an- 
other bitter test of strength in the city campaign of 1900 and Reed again 
carried the day for the Pendergast faction. After downing Shannon's 
candidate for mayor in the primary, he led the Democrats to a landslide 
that broke the Republican victory string in the city. 

Political animosities in Kansas City had been greatly intensified by 
this time, a situation which many regarded as a tribute to Reed's flash- 
ing style of attack. The lash of his tongue when he was in the Senate 
left welts on the hides of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, but those flail- 
ings were routine affairs compared with his vitriolic attacks .on the Star 
and the Kansas City Republicans in the days when he was first winning 
public recognition. The force and effect of the early Reed oratory are 
illustrated by the case of Jimmie Jones, a Republican mayor for two 
terms, who retired from politics and left town to seek a living in more 
peaceful fields after the stormy city campaign of 1900. 

In the previous city campaign, Reed and Jones had come to blows as a 
result of the former's disparaging remarks about the Republican mayor. 
Jones, who campaigned for re-election as "the best little mayor that Kan- 
sas City ever had," was handy with his fists. On one occasion he beat up 
a barker at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show who happened to make a 
remark which Mr. Jones deemed insulting to his wife when the Mayor 
and his lady were entering the tent. He started looking for Jim Reed 
after the latter had given a hilarious burlesque of the best little mayor. 
The talented Democratic mimic concluded his droll performance before 
an appreciative crowd with the charge that while the Mayor was being 
eulogized as an exemplary character by a minister on the east side of the 
city, Jimmie Jones was downtown "dead drunk." Mr. Jones caught up 
.with Mr. Reed in the neighborhood of the stockyards and, according to 
the Star's gleeful report of the meeting, Jones set upon his adversary and 
^Reed fell like a log and lay in the gutter unconscious. 51 When he awoke, 
"he was credited with uttering that famous line : "What hit me ? " 

The bump on the head which Reed suffered at the hands of Mayor 
Jones served merely to heighten his zeal as a crusader against Republican 


oppression and Star dictation, which he brought to an end two years 
. Jaten He was, of course, a reformer at this time and there was little in 
the picture to suggest that he would someday be a figure in one of the 
country's most notorious boss organizations. 

In 1900 the Goats and Rabbits were all filled with cleanup sentiment 
as a result of six long years of Republican rule in the City Hall, and 
none had greater passion for a change than Jim Reed. And it did seem 
that a change was overdue. Perhaps the Situation in the City Hall was 
not so bad as Candidate Reed pictured it, but there was some reason for 
believing that the Kansas City machine was going to be a Republican 
rather than a Democratic outfit before the Stormy Petrel came along 
with his reform. This development of the spoils system in the G.O.P. 
had escaped the notice of the Star, which was preoccupied with its work 
of calling attention to the growing boss tendency in the Democratic 
Party. Reed denounced the Star as chief among the special interests 
favored by the Jimmie Jones administration, or rather as the power be- 
hind the Jones regime. It was one of his more vigorous prosecutions. 
Whatever he lacked in evidence was more than offset by the passion and 
sweep of his indictment, and the Democrats roared in the happy knowl- 
edge that at last they 'had a special pleader who was a match for Baron 

Reed's duel with Nelson's paper was a protracted affair which demon- 
strated the durability of the Stormy Petrel more than any other single 
thing. Fighting Jim eventually emerged from the conflict holding a top 
position on the Stars honor roll. That reversal occurred some time after 
Nelson died and was a development that is popularly .supposed to have 
spoiled the Colonel's peace in heaven. Such an outcome seemed far out- 
side the realm of remote possibility in the exciting years when Nelson 
was directing the attack and Reed was pronouncing the Kansas City 
Sta-ahr in insulting accents that left no room for forgiveness. Nelson's 
editors devoted their best efforts to the task of punishing and suppressing 
him. They tried to ignore him, giving him a long treatment of the Star's 
"thunderous silence," but Reed continued to gain. They gave him a fierce 
lambasting and lampooning and still he showed no signs of suffering 
great pain. Is it any wonder that the editors were glad to make peace 
with this rugged individual after Nelsoa departed? 


It became increasingly difficult to ignore Reed after he was elected 
mayor as he showed himself to be an efficient and forceful executive. His 
administration listed numerous achievements in the public regulation of 
utility corporations. Reed prevailed on the streetcar company to relin- 
quish a 25-year franchise that had been rushed through the City Council 
in the last days of the outgoing Republican regime. He got the company 
to grant universal transfers, increased its valuation, induced it to rebuild 
its system and pay the public eight per cent of its gross revenues. He 
reduced the city lighting bill, introduced a competitive telephone system 
that improved service and lowered rates, fought the paving monopoly 
and cut taxes. Still the Star was not satisfied with Reed as a champion 
against the interests and an opponent of the spoils system. It found 
numerous causes for agitation, including a matter which it called the 
Gamewell Gouge, involving a contract for a new fire alarm system. It 
raised a cry over the rise of political influence in the Police Department 
aad t ^!iKL9!j^ through 

Democratic channels. Its greatest fire was centered on Reed in the fight 
over the Metropolitan Street Car Company, the Star contending that the 
corporation had received too generous treatment in the "gentleman's 
agreement" that was negotiated in the Reed administration. This differ- 
ence continued for years, extending into the streetcar franchise and fare 
battles and the fight for a public utility commission in which the'Stor 
was arrayed against powerful elements in both party organizations. 

The attempt to stop Reed in this period was encouraged by certain 
Democrats, notably members of the faction headed by Joe Shannon, 
whose interest in reform politics grew steadily while the Goats were 
growing in power with Reed. Shannon's Rabbits had a vigorous reformer 
in the person of Frank P. Walsh, an idealistic and optimistic Irishman, 
who combined radical agitation and practical politics in a most uncom- 
mon fashion. His interesting crusade developed to the accompaniment 
of his conflicts with Mr. Reed, a dispute that enlivened Democratic affairs 
in Jackson Cotinty for many years before they both moved to Washing- 
ton to follow their divergent lines in the party of Jefferson and Jackson. 
Reed later held the national stage in his battles with Woodrow Wilson 
and Franklin D. Roosevelt, over the League of Nations and the New 
Deal. Walsh Ifcft Kansas City for Washington to serve as chairman o 


Wilson's industrial relations commission and he later was co-chairman 
of the first War Labor Board. He closed his career as a Roosevelt ap- 
pointee in the chairmanship of the State Power Authority of New York. 

Reed and Walsh had started up the political ladder together as friends 
%nd fellow reformers, but parted early in the factional and philosophical 
debates that disturbed the party. They clashed on the platform, in con- 
ventions, in the public prints and in courtrooms, the conflict reaching 
its dramatic climax in a famous murder trial in 1910. The feud was still 
going in the twilight of their lives. In the late 1930'$, Walsh returned 
to Kansas City, after a long absence, to represent the International 
Ladies' Garment Workers Union in court against the Donnelly Gar- 
ment Company, owned by Reed's wife, and Reed defended the com- 
pany in its effort to prevent unionization of his wife's employees under 
the Wagner Act. Kansas Citians were then reminded that there had 
been no improvement in the feeling between the two old antagonists, 
who hadn't spoken to each other for years. At one hearing in the case, 
Reed turned angrily on Walsh when he interrupted a witness and Walsh 
retorted drily: "Thank you for speaking to me." Reed glowered and 
explained that the exchange was purely involuntary on his part. 

In Jackson County, Walsh is remembered for the long list of pro- 
gressive causes that ke espoused there, a program reflecting the wide 
unrest and demand for change that had been provoked by the business 
and political manipulations of the age of Frenzied Finance, the packing 
trusts, the Standard Oil monopoly, the insurance swindles and the Wall 
Street rigging. Walsh's interest in reform had its roots in a fierce hatred 
of poverty and social inequality which he formed when he was a boy in 
St. Louis. Of thirty boys he remembered in his neighborhood, he later 
recalled that only three survived to a useful and normal manhood. He 
early determined that the main issue of the day was "the material one, 
the economic one." "The rights of man of this time," he declared, "are the 
right to eat, the right to live decently, the right to work, the right to a com- 
fortable home, die right to have children without wondering whether his 
children hadr^'t better die than grow up." It didn't take him long to dis- 
cover that the chief barrier to the exercise of those rights was maintained 
by organized wealth's domination of the parties -which controlled the 
machinery of government. In 1900 he severed all his connections as a 


lawyer with corporation clients and enlarged his field of operations as an 
agitator against the economic powers. 

In the years that followed, Walsh raised the boss issue in his own party 
on numerous occasions and found himself in the midst of a growing 
Democratic tempest. He pressed this fight in city, county and state cam- 
paigns and his allies were numerous and strong enough to make, the 
antimachine movement a major action. This storm indie party had been 
developing over a long period during which the Democrats enjoyed too 
much success. The boss system entrenched itself in whichever pa^ty was 
dominant, and the Democrats had been running things in Missouri for 
thirty years. Seat of the organization was the State Capitol in Jefferson 
City, and the boss group was known as the state machine, maintaining 
its hold through the party committee, the convention system, the legisla- 
tive power, the lobbies and other devices that had been created to concen- 
trate authority, patronage and other means of control in a few hands. 
The effort to break up this monopoly, and to arrest extension of the boss 
system in the city, reached its peak in the first four years of the twentieth 
century and had an important bearing on the factional conflict that 
swirled around Jim Reed. 

One of the important antimachine endeavors was the Home Rule 
cause, a point of protracted disagreement between the Kansas City fac- 
tions. The Home Rule agitators wanted to end state control of the police, 
which had been established by the Democratic Legislature, placing the 
appointive power over the police board in the hands of the governor. 
Since the state administrations were Democratic, and had been regularly 
for three decades, this system gave the Democrats control of a major 
function of the city government regardless of changes in local adminis- 
tration. Naturally, the Home Rule reform was popular with Republi- 
cans, and very unpopular with many Democrats. However, it was 
espoused by Frank Walsh, Joe Shannon, and other figures in the Rabbit 
faction with growing fervor as it became increasingly clear that the 
Pendergast faction was making gains with the state powers. Although 
it was evident that both sides in this dispute were affected by selfish 
parti$an or factional interests, the main fact was that the state control 
arrangement was an antidemocratic system which created a strong tie 
between local and state boss elements. State control of the police, excise 


and election machinery was one of the principal means by which the 
machine seized complete control o St. Louis. Kansas City had numer- 
ous illustrations of the defects of this system but nothing to compare 
with the St. Louis scandal, thanks in part to the nearly equal division of 
the Kansas City parties and to the conflict of the Democratic factions 
over the Home Rule issue. 

It was the Rabbits' crusade for Home Rule that had produced the party 
split in the county campaign of 1900, when Pendergast's followers voted 
Republican in order to cut down the antipolice ticket which the Jackson 
County Democrats had nominated. "This defeat will tend to purge the 
Democratic Party," was Alderman Jim's happy comment. Joe Shannon, 
the coiinty chairman, retaliated by publicly branding Jim Reed as a leader 
in the revolt, returning to him a fifty dollar contribution to campaign 
funds with "the recommendation that the Mayor at once institute a care- 
ful investigation among his appointees and subordinates in the City Hall, 
and in case one can be found who voted the Democratic ticket at said 
election, that he present the fifty dollars as a reward for his fidelity to 
the party which Mayor Reed publicly pretended to favor in the cam- 
paign just closed." 

Another minor Walsh project in the anti-boss cause was an episode 
that was known as the Celebrated Cardwell Case; or the Mysterious Mr. 
Brown, a political comedy that occupied the attention of the voters in 
1901-02. One pamphleteer who compiled a history of this remarkable 
affair declared that the question: Who is Mr. Brown? belonged in the 
same category with the three classic conundrums of the ages : Who was 
the Man in the Iron Mask?, Who wrote the Letters of Junius? and Who 
struck Billy Patterson? It appears that the Missourians in the good old 
days derived much pleasure from the Who-is-Mr. -Brown mystery and 
at the same time acquired an advanced lesson in machine politics. 

Frank Walsh gave a serious purpose to this farce by directing the in- 
vestigation for the Honorable W. O. Cardwell, a Kansas City member 
of the state Legislature, who blew the lid off the party scandal by charg- 
ing in a speech that the Democratic State Committee solicited and 
received contributions from corporations. Agitation along this line con- 
tinued until the Secretary of the State, who was involved in the charges, 
lost his temper and called the Honorable Mr. Cardv. ell a liar in a letter 


published in the St. Louis Republic. Cardwell sued the paper for fifty- 
thousand-dollar libel and Walsh, as attorney for the aggrieved politician, 
took over the questioning of important party figures. 

Depositions collected by Walsh quickly established that the State Com- 
mittee had sought and accepted large gifts of money from railroad, trac- 
tion, brewery, race-track and Kansas City stockyard interests. Further 
startling disclosures were about to be made when the Mysterious Mr. 
Brown appeared on the scene. He did his work for the party shortly after 
Colonel James Monroe Seibert, chairmarTof the committee, had been 
served a writ of attachment in St. Louis for defying a summons to give 
a deposition in the case. 

Mr. Brown called on Plaintiff Cardwell in Kansas "City, paid him 
seventy-five hundred dollars in settlement of the libel suit while Colonel 
Seibert was waiting in St. Louis to be rescued, and then disappeared. Mr. 
Cardwell announced that he had been paid a "dignified sum" that satis- 
fied his honor, and instructed Attorney Walsh to drop the case. All that 
he could tell about the Mysterious Mr. Brown was. that he was "tall, thin 
and cadaverous." Various experts in the field of deduction figured that 
Mr. Brown was the law partner of Colonel William EL Phelps, chief of 
the Missouri Pacific lobby at Jefferson City, but the pundits did not let 
the matter drop with that simple solution. " 

The agitation had angry repercussions when Walsh led a fight to break 
the corporations' control of his party two years before Joseph W. Folk 
brought a showdown on the issue in his race for governor. The Kansas 
City disturber, armed with the Cardwell case disclosures, created a storm 
in the Democratic state convention when he presented a platform resolu- 
tion denouncing corporation contributions to campaign funds. Party 
leaders tried to get him to pocket his resolution and let him understand 
he could have the honor of being the convention chairman if he would 
be reasonable. They next offered to support his resolution if he would 
direct it at the Republicans. When he persisted in his course, they told 
him they would flatten him under the party steamroller. Walsh rented a 
hall and delivered an inflammatory attack on the bosses and their 
moneyed friends. They kept their promise to run over him and his 'fol- 
lowing in the convention but then lost their nerve and put his resolution 
in the platform; 


Walsh's stand against the state machine and the corporations brought 
no immediate change in the organization command, but the Democratic 
difference over this issue was fought out two years later, in 1904, in a 
campaign that shattered party lines and produced a reform that had 
lasting effects. Kansas City staged one of the interesting preliminaries in 
that Missouri battle when Reed entered the race for governor. The 
Shannon Democrats, Walsh and other Home Rule advocates lined up 
solidly against him, raising the antimachine banner and striking their 
first blow in the 1904 city campaign after Mayor Reed attempted to pick 
his successor in the City Hall. 

For this fracas, Mayor Reed ushered onto the stage, with Pendergast as-, 
sistance, the Honorable William T. Kemper, who was later to make 
history as the Uncle Bill of Kansas City finance. Kemper served as police 
commissioner in the Reed administration and cooked up a fifty-fitty pro- 
position with the Mayor: Reed agreed to help Kemper in his ambition to 
be mayor in return for support for the Reed gubernatorial aspirations. 
While negotiations with Alderman Jim Pendergast were still being 
worked out, Kemper resigned his police commissionership and an- 
nounced his candidacy for mayor. Such amateurishness appalled the 
North Side leader and he remarked: "They have buncoed him. They've 
made him give up his gun, disarmed him out on the prairie." Alderman 
Jim threatened for a time to throw his support to Kemper's rival, George 
M. Shefley, a former mayor who was trying to make a comeback with 
the Rabbit leader, but this was simply a Pendergast deceptive play, and 
eventually he backed the Reed choice. 

In the fight that followed, Joe Shannon had the large assistance of 
Editor Nelson, who was interested in the Democratic factional dispute 
not only because it improved Republican chances but because it gave the 
Star an opportunity to arouse public sentiment against the abuse of the 
police power in politics. That power was used forcefully and effectively 
for Kemper in the primary election of delegations to the Democratic city 
convention which eliminated Shannon's candidate George M. Shelley. 

The Star's report on the election was filled with charges that police con- 
trol of the polls and intimidation of voters had produced a fraudulent 
victory for Pendergast's candidate, and the agitation continued until 
Shannon and his allies decided to hold a rump convention. They aomi- 


nated Shelley as the mayoralty candidate of the "antipolice ticket," 
spreading consternation among the Goats and creating a sensation for 
the whole town. 

This last reaction was provoked by an incident in the noon-hour in- 
terval when the rival conventions recessed for lunch. It started when 
Martin Crowe, sergeant-at-arms of the Kemper convention, took a stroll 
past the hall at Twelfth and Walnut streets where the Shelley convention 
was being held. Up to this moment there had been a universal feeling that 
no harm would ever come to Martin Crowe. He was the champion ham- 
mer thrower of Kansas City, a title he won regularly at Irish picnics. Not 
long before this, he had beaten up several railroaders in Cronin's saloon. 
At a dance in Casino Hall he had knocked out a half-dozen men. The 
only individual with enough foolhardiness to tackle Martin alone was a 
mountainous Swede teamster, who had been thrashed and then picked 
up bodily 'and tossed into his wagon. So Mr. Crowe expected no interfer- 
ence when he took his walk past the assembled Rabbits. He was, however, 
accosted by one Cas Welch, a sturdy Shannon lieutenant with a deputy 
marshal's badge. Deputy Welch reproached Sergeant Crowe over his 
conduct in the recent primary, and his protest was heartfelt because 
Martin was an old friend and until a year or so earlier had been a fellow 
member of the Rabbit faction. He deserted to the Goat side after Tom 
Pendergast became county marshal and gave him the contract for supply- 
ing bread to prisoners in the county jail. Gas's sorrow over the corruption 
o his former friend caused him to make his remonstrance more spirited 
than was healthful and he was immediately knocked down. Welch drew 
a pistol and fired three times, striking Crowe twice, once in the rump 
and once in the heel, for the great Martin had turned to run. 

"It was just a friendly argument," Cas Welch told the police when they 
arrived. "I felt friendly again the minute I fired that third shot." 

The combined effect of Cas Welch, Shannon, Shelley, Walsh and the 
Star was too much for Kemper, Pendergast and Reed, and the final deci- 
sion went to the Republicans. It left the Democrats still quarreling, and 
nursing wounds that were long in healing. The same forces that figured 
in the Kansas City factional storm entered into the larger Missouri 
struggle that reached its conclusion in the summer and fall of 1904. In 
the primary. race for governor, -Reed encountered some of his stiffest 


resistance in his own bailiwick and his defeat was conceded long before 
the last round. Joe Shannon's uprising was not, however, the main factor 
in sidetracking Candidate Reed. Kansas City's recently retired mayor 
simply had picked a poor time to run for governor on his reform record. 

The spirit of reform was in the air but the spotlight was held by Joseph 
Wingate Folk of St. Louis as a result of his work in breaking up the St. 
Louis aldermanic combine and conducting prosecutions against im- 
portant individuals in the business and political life of Missouri's largest 
city. Operations of the gang, which Folk uncovered in 1901-02 when he 
was serving as circuit attorney, made "boodling" the great term of the 
day. The Disgrace of St. Louis startled even the muckrackers of the pe- 
riod. (See Lincoln Steflfens' Autobiography and The Shame of the 
Cities?) As the St. Louis grand jury pointed out in its final report, "al- 
though there may have been corruption in other cities as great as we 
have had here, yet in no place in the world and in no time known to 
history has so much official corruption been uncovered and.the evidence 
shown so that all could see and understand." , 

Among the interesting exhibits uncovered was a fantastic oath for 
aldermen in the secret combine serving the transportation, utilities and 
garbage disposal monopolies. It read: 

I do solemnly agree that in case I should reveal the fact that any person in 
this combine has received money for illegal purposes, I hereby permit and 
authorize other members of this combine to take the forfeit of my life in such 
manner as they may deem proper, and that my throat may be cut, my tongue 
torn out and my body cast in the Missouri River. 

The investigation reached high up, trapping several millionaire busi- 
nessmen-politicians, including one who fled to France, another who fled 
to Mexico and two who were saved from prison when the Missouri Su- 
preme Court reversed their sentences. Seven boodlers were sent to prison 
and the St. Louis scandal was combined wi|h an exposure of legislative 
bribers at the state capital; the attorney general and a grand jury at Jeffer- 
son City working with Folk and the St Louis probers. 

Folk was the man of the hour and he signified that he was willing to 
accept the governor's office to continue his cleanup. His challenge met 
considerable opposition from party regulars and conservatives,- particu- 
larly in the cities, qutstate Missouri rallied heavily to Folk's side. His two 


opponents were overwhelmed in the pre-convention 'primary and he was 
nominated on the first ballot at a convention which wrote many of his 
progressive ideas into the party platform. Reed had withdrawn from the 
race two'months before the convention and his defeat was underscored 
by the loss of his home county. Shannon and Walsh had climbed on the 
Folk bandwagon early and were large factors in the Jackson County 
movement for the S.t. Louis prosecutor. One of the principal journalistic 
voices in the Folk revolt was Colonel Nelson's. His Star carried on a 
vigorous fight for the Democratic Scourge of the Rascals in the nominat- 
ing campaign and supported him against the Republican candidate for 
governor in the final election, at the same time plugging for the national 
Republican ticket headed by Teddy Roosevelt, the Trust Buster. 

Missouri elected Folk and returned a Democratic majority to the upper 
house of the Legislature, but otherwise moved into the Republican 
column, giving its electoral votes to the G.O.P. presidential candidate 
for the first time since Reconstruction. The Mysterious Stranger, as Mis- 
souri was labeled in a famous post-election cartoon by McCutcheon, was 
starting on a long rampage in politics. 

Hope that the progressive movement would prevail over the old cor- 
rupt system soared high in the Folk administration. It was in this period 
that Missouri adopted the direct primary law and the initiative and refer- 
endum. A rigid antilobby law, a child labor law, provision for the re- 
moval of derelict public officials, a compulsory education law, an 
eight-hour law for some industries, pure food regulations and a public 
utility commission for cities were some of the other important reforms 
introduced under Folk. The Democratic governor was not the only 
conspicuous figure in the high tide of progressivism in Missouri. Kansas 
City produced one of the main actors, Herbert S. Hadley, later governor 
of the state, who was elected attorney general on the Republican ticket 
in the Mysterious Stranger year of 1904. 

Hadley, a Kansan, a Jayhawker by birtrl and education, started his 
political rise as an assistant city counselor of Kansas City and prosecutor 
of Jackson County, exhibiting uncommon zeal in the fight on lawbreak- 
ers and political tricksters. As attorney general of Missouri he drew 
the national spotlight with the antitrust proceedings he instituted against 
the Standard Oil Company and was credited with- paving the way for the 


Federal action which broke up the greatest monopoly then existing in 
America. The oil interests were fined and ousted from the state by the 
Supreme Court, being permitted to return, later, on payment of fines and 
with pledges to discontinue their illegal business methods. The Attorney 
General also warred against the harvester trust, the insurance and lumber 
trusts and the railroads, but these actions were still uncompleted when he 
ended ,his term in office. 

Elaborate efforts to improve the morals and the social habits of the 
people in the cities were combined with the action to restrain predatory 
business interests. Race tracks were closed down under a new law enacted 
in the Folk administration. Dramshop laws were so rigidly enforced in 
St. Louis, Kansas City and St. Joseph that many saloons shut their doors 
permanently and dry Sundays came to the parched city dwellers. This 
kind of crusading earned Folk the nickname of Holy Joe and eventually 
created an unfortunate complication in the Missouri reform, with the old 
quarrel over boozing and gaming overshadowing more important aspects 
of the uplift. Folk protested that he was not a dry fanatic, and his 
efforts to restrain the liquor interests could have been defended on prac- 
tical political grounds, as well as on loftier premises, for the boss organiza- 
tion against which he was contending was entrenched in the saloons. 
However, the sportive citizens were not yet prepared to sacrifice their 
loose social customs in order to get rid of corrupt politicians, and Holy 
Joe found himself identified with repression rather than progress by a 
large segment of the public in the urban centers. 

It appears that Folk may have contributed further to the shortening 
c$ his political life by his determined effort to take the police out of 
politics and reduce election frauds. Police and election commissioners 
appointed by him were credited with effecting some improvement, but 
this was not alone enough to change the results in many of the old boss- 
controlled wards of the city. At the same time, it brought on Folk the 
enmity of powerful individuals and groups in his own party. 

The boss system weathered the storm, and the return to power of the 
old order was forecast even before the Folk administration ended. While 
the business interests attacked the new reform laws in the courts, and 
succeeded in killing some of the measures regulating business, the regu* 
lars staged a comeback in the party organization and at the polls. 


In 1908, Missouri used for the first time the direct primary law that 
had been enacted in the Folk administration and was regarded by the 
insurgents as one of their chief weapons against the bosses, who had so 
long held power through the convention system. Ironically, the prin-, 
cipal architect of this reform was himself eliminated in the 1908 primary 
by Senator William Joel Stone, who had the backing of the Kansas City 
and St. Louis organizations. Folk ran for the senatorial nomination that 
year because Missouri governors constitutionally are prohibited from 
directly succeeding themselves. While he was going down to defeat, he 
saw the party regulars score another important triumph in the governor- 
ship race with the nomination of a veteran organization man from 
Kansas City, William S. Cowherd, former mayor and a member of the 
national House of Representatives who had been unseated in the 1904 
upheaval. His Republican opponent in the November election was 
Kansas City's Herbert S. Hadley, who ran on the Folk-Hadley reform 
record, was elected and kept the progressive movement alive a little 

The organization showed that it had completely recovered two years 
later when Jim Reed made his successful campaign for a seat in the 
United States Senate. Reed was favored that year by both fate and the 
political trend. He got the jump on rivals for the senatorial nomination 
by stealing the limelight in a murder trial that held national -attention 
for six weeks just before the campaign opened. The rivalry of Reed and 
Frank Walsh reached a melodramatic high point in this case, which had 
its origin in Independence, Harry Truman's home town. The trial, which 
was held in Kansas City, has found a place among the classic American 
murder cases. 

As a trial lawyer, Walsh was destined to win national fame and among 
his notable later victories was his successful" fight to win a pardon for 
Tom Mooney, the labor agitator who was condemned in the San 
Francisco Preparedness Parade bombing. But in Jackson County Walsh 
and Reed were recognized as two equally matched giants of the bar, when 
they met in 1910. Reed, as county prosecutor, had won all except two 
of the 287 cases he had tried, and it was remembered that Walsh was 
his successful opponent in one of those two actions. That earlier trial 
had attracted wide attention as the.deendant was Jesse James, Jr., son of 


the immortal train robber, who was accused of attempting to carry on 
the family tradition in the hold-up of a Missouri Pacific train near 
Kansas City in 1898. Young Jesse was acquitted, later became a lawyer 
and practised for a time in Kansas City, took a fling in Democratic poli- 
tics and attracted brief attention as an insurgent agitating for the over- 
throw of "King Tom" Pendergast. The courtroom drama provided by 
Walsh and Reed was exciting enough to inspire him in that choice of 
a career, but their clash in the James trial was a small skirmish beside 
their engagement of 1910 in the Swope case. 

Reed's histrionic talent was given full play in the prosecution of Dr. 
B. Clark Hyde, charged with the murder of Colonel Thomas H. Swope, 
millionaire real estate owner and philanthropist who gave Kansas City 
the i,323-acre park that bears his name. Hyde, husband of one of Swope's 
nieces, also was accused of doing away with two of Swope's heirs and 
attempting to kill several others. A highly theoretical and circumstantial 
case was built on the contention that the defendant, a reputable and 
widely known physician before the trial:, had turned into a monster in an 
effort to enhance his wife's share of Swope's four-million-dollar fortune. 
Jim Reed was hired as the special prosecutor by Dr. Hyde's mother-in- 
law, who had opposed the doctor's marriage to her daughter, Frances 
Hunton Swope. For four years she had nursed a morbid fear that her 
unwanted son-in-law was after the Swope millions which she was guard- 
ing for her numerous children, and then a run of death and sickness in 
the family turned her suspicions into certainty. However, she could not 
convince her daughter, and Frances Swope Hyde went before the court 
to brand the whole case against her husband as a fabrication based on 
prejudice, distortions, .unfounded suspicions, malicious gossip and excited 

The things that Special Prosecutor Reed did with this fantastic com- 
plication made the undoing of Clark Hyde a Reed show. Memories of 
Reed swaying the jury to convict the doctor were still vivid twenty years 
later, when a veteran Starman was inspired to add this tasty bit to the 
book of journalistic hyperbole : 

"Jim Reed reached for the stars in that speech. He found pathways in 
the clouds never before trodden in criminal cases. He finessed with 
meteors which dropped headlong into the path along which his feet took 


him. That golden voice could be as plaintive as a lute or as bold as thunder 
ringing from mountain peaks." 

That reminiscence was in the flamboyant style of Reed himself and 
scrutiny of the court record shows several passages in which he soared 
nearly as high as the author quoted above. He was terrific, no doubt about 
it, and the special prosecution served as a revealing introduction to the 
Stormy Petrel when he stepped on the national stage to give the Kansas 
City Goats a loud voice in the American hurly-burly. 

Curiously, the question of Clark Hyde's guilt or iijtnocence has never 
been entirely settled, despite the Reed eloquence. Three juries in all heard 
the evidence in the case. The first voted eight to four for acquittal on the 
first ballot, but there was one powerful pleader in the minority who won 
the eight over to a conviction after three nights and two days of delibera- 
tion. That verdict was upset by the Missouri Supreme Court, which re- 
manded the case for a new trial, and the second round ended in a mistrial 
when one of the jurors suffered a nervous breakdown and escaped from 
the jury room. The third trial ended in a deadlock, with the jury reported- 
standing nine to three for acquittal, and the state finally drppped the case 
seven years after the first trial. x 

There is ample room for doubt that Reed would have obtained even a 
disputed conviction if the trial judge in the case had not permitted the 
prosecution to proceed on the broad theoretical course which the state 
Supreme Court condemned, and erred in several other important respects, 
thpt were discussed in the stunning reversal. Finally, the Supreme 
Court declared that it was likely that Colonel Swopc died from the 
effects pf senile debility, in his eighty-second year, on the basis of the 
evidence developed at the trial. 

So the story ought to show that Frank Walsh won his most spectacular 
engagement with Jim Reed, taking the decision on the points of law 
and evidence, but the course of justice, like the play of fortune in poli- 
tics, is often confused and sad. Dr. Hyde found that the public did not 
digest or remember the sober opinion of the Supreme Court, and the 
legend that was formed in the melodrama and bombast of the six weeks* 
trial became fixed in the popular mind. He retired to spend the re- 
mainder of his life under a doud. Reed went directly from the court* 


room to campaign for the Senate seat and he had won that race before the 
Supreme Court's decision against the special prosecution was returned. 

An impressive demonstration of Democratic harmony was given when 
Reed was sent to Washington. At that time, the election of United States 
senators was still held in the Legislature, after nominations in the prefer- 
ential primary. Not a single dissentii}g Democratic vote was registered 
in the legislature when the Kansas City candidate was chosen. The 
time for revolts in the Democratic Party of Missouri was over, and there 
would be no great disturbance for another quarter of a century. 

Through the storms of the last decade the Pendergast faction had 
proved its strength and it was resuming the expansion that had been 
interrupted by the varied interference from Walsh, Shannon, Folk and 
Nelson. Tom Pendergast had taken over full command of the faction 
from Alderman Jim in the same year that Reed ran successfully for the 
Senate. Big Tom and Fighting Jim had become fast friends in the strug- 
gles of the last dozen years, and they were to stand together in larger 
actions in the* city, state and national arenas. The trend for the Demo- 
crats of Kansas City, and particularly for the Pendergast organization, 
was up from here on. 

' A turning point had been marked in 1900 when Reed appeared on the 
.scene as mayor. It ended six straight years of Republican successes. It was 
followed by four decades in which the Republicans counted only ten 
years in control of the City Hall, and about the same number in the 
Courthouse. Joe Shannon, the Rabbit leader, had succeeded in strength- 
ening his position and restoring the balance between the Democratic 
factions through the disturbances of the reform period, but the road 
.ahead for Shannon was rocky. His ally, Fr^nk Walsh, soon would leave 
Kansas City and other figures who had assisted him in the political com- 
petition were about to pass on. Mr. Shannon wasn't going to have much 
time for rest despite the fact that peace had been restored to the Jackson 
County, Democracy under Fifty-Fifty, the historic trading agreement 
betweeg the Goats and Rabbits which had been devised during a lull in 
the battles of the last decade. It wasn't the poet's kind of peace. 

Although Reed in Washington placed himself above the rough-and- 
tumble in which the city machine grew big and tough, his relationship 
with Tom Pendergast remained unbrokea until near the close of the 


boss show. The Senator did not control much patronage that was useful 
to the Kansas City Democrats, but the prestige of his position, the power 
of his voice in campaigns, his advice on policy and strategy and his influ- 
ence with state and national party leaders were large assets to the organ- 
ization out of which the machine grew. It took fifteen more years to 
complete that Development, but the building process began to attract 
major attention not long after the Missouri reform ended. 


MURDER, economic injustice and political corruption were much less inter- 
esting to the general public as daily propositions than the problem of ordi- 
nary vice and it seemed that a large part of the population believed that if 
men could be induced to give up guzzling, dancing, whoring and card 
playing all would be well with the Republic and such matters as good 
government and social right would more, or less take care of themselves. 

The hard-shell Baptist idea in political endeavor had a very interest- 
ing subject to work on in Kansas City's First Ward, which included old 
Market Square and extended south to Twelfth Street all of it a notable 
center of resistance to the puritan philosophy. Twelfth Street, with its 
new White Way, its hotels, restaurants and theaters, carried the spirit o 
old Battle Row and Union Avenue into the new metropolitan age. 

Holy Joe Folk's crusading against tipplers, horse players and dice ex- 
perts had a temporarily depressing effect on this lively neighborhood 
and revived the North Side's fanatical opposition to reform and reformers 
of all kinds. When Folk passed from the scene at the end of his one term > 
his Republican successor, the Honorable- Herbert S. Hadley, endeavored 
to carry on the good work of improving the moral tone of the cities, as 
the Protestant devil chasers Were still making a great commotion with 
their notion that an enormous uplift would be derived from a vast shut- 
down in public merriment. Moreover, it appeared that the G.O.P, would 
be strengthened by a little practical reform under the auspices of Repub- 
lican officials and policemen, at the expense of Democratic saloonkeepers 
and dive operators. The result was a most earnest application of the 
up principle in Old Town, producing a reaction which showed that the 


vice problem required something more than the simple political action 
favored by the reformers of this period. 

For this great work, Governor Hadley selected a Republican lawyer 
by the name of Tom Marks, a sportsman, social philosopher and swash- 
buckling fellow with ambitions to displace the Pendergasts as the power 
in the First Ward. Naturally he centered his improvement project in that 
district. Much work needed to be done both for the Republican cause 
and for salvation in the North End, as the North Side then was called. 
With the city's rapid march southward, the original part of the com- 
munity in and around Market Square had become a seedy relic of a pic- 
turesque past. Sentimentalists called it Old Town and regarded it with 
affection, but the people in the higher-rent districts to the northeast and 
south looked upon it with distaste or tried not to see it. They entered it 
by day only when they had business that took them to the City Hall, the 
Courthouse or some commercial establishment. They saw it at night 
when they were making the rounds or going to and from theaters, in the 
neighborhood, which held out against the decline. They knew it vaguely 
as the part of town in which Negroes and Italians were crowded with 
Jews, Irish and native Americans at the bottom of the social and economic 
heap, the area in which the bawdyhouses operated and the underworld 
had its roots. 

Police Commissioner Marks set about the cleanup task with com- 
mendable ,zeal but before long it appeared that he was too advanced for 
the town. A reformer of the sophisticated type produced by the new 
metropolitan age, he felt that the old-fashioned raiding-and-closing tactics 
of the Folk pferiod were inadequate to deal with the modern pace in 
larceny, homicide and forbidden joy, but he found that rn^ny horse-and- 
buggy ideas in public morals persisted when he attempted to introduce 
jeforms that had a rather Parisian flavor* 

Mr. Marks produced a blast of righteousr indignation from holders of 
various profitable downtown properties by drawing plans for a segre- 
gated vice district in the North End. This proposal was based on a for- 
eign doctrine of compromise with Beelzebub which was ever hateful to 
the native Baptists and Methodists* Furthermore, the plan threatened to 
jeopardize important real estate values and restrain trade. The North 
End had a large daytime industrial and commercial importance as weE 


as an interesting nighttime traffic. It had its own way of accommodating 
itself to the social evil, so that neither the daytime nor the nighttime busi- 
ness suffered, and it did not propose to change. 

"There must be some regulation," Mr. Marks declared. e< Vice cannot 
be suppressed and it cannot be scattered like measles along our boule* 
vards. So we must reduce the evil to the minimum." 

His radical scheme to achieve this end with a police-sponsored red -light 
district was shouted down at a meeting of two hundred angry business- 
men who were not idealists like Tom Marks and didn't believe there 
was any such thing as a minimum in sin. It was the consensus of the 
meeting that Mr. Marks had been absolutely insulting to the respectable 
property owners with his broad insinuations that they were responsible 
for the existing social conditions, and they adjourned after adopting a 
resolution formally changing the name of the North End to the North 
Side, which was thought to have a less unsavory sound. The problem was 
left approximately where it was, 'until it was dealt with a little later in 
more orthodox American fashion through a tremendous revival directed 
by the Religion Forward Movement with the earnest co-operation of the 
businessmen. That was declared to be a wonderful campaign and its good 
results were summed up by the head of the Movement, who said: "The 
present social evil is indeed a long-time problem. I have no doubt but 
what a speedy solution will be arrived at. Just what that is will be hard to 

The speedy solution was still hard to guess when the Marks cleanup 
ended after a run that was made brief by the usual complications attend- 
ing partisan administration of the Police Department. 

The chief political result of this Republican concern over Old Town's 
morals was to increase the North Side's" affection for Democrats. Al- 
though they were roundly abused as the men most responsible for condi- 
tions, the political heroes of the saloonkeepers were models of sobriety 
and encouraged uplift in their own quiet way. Joe Shannon, the Rabbit 
boss, for example, had a record as a teetotaler which few wearers of the 
white ribbon could match. * 

Joe delighted in telling the story of his success in resisting temptation 
in any alcoholic form. It began when he was a boy of twelve and had to 
quit school to help support his widowed mother and her large family. 


Joe's first job was in Martin Keek's beer garden atop an eminence later 
known as Union Station Hill, later the site of Kansas City's imposing 
First World War Memorial. When Mrs. Shannon learned that her son 
was working in a beer joint, she gave him a long lecture on the evils of 

"Promise me that you will never touch whisky or beer or any of those 
things with alcohol in them/* she said: "The devil's in them." 

"I promise, Ma," said little Joe. 

"And I never have," concluded the Rabbit chieftain, draining a glass 
of milk with a show of vast relish. 

The Pendergasts, who depended on the saloon for their main income, 
could not go so far as the Shannons in discouraging interest in liquor, but 
old Jim did what he could to impress the temperance people. He gave up 
drinking fairly early in his career after he underestimated his own 
strength in a friendly brawl with another Irishman, when both he and 
the other man were artificially stimulated. As befitted a naturally peace- 
loving man, Jim suffered profound remorse over his friend's abrasions 
and contusions and thereafter he passed when the drinks were ordered. 
He began to develop a reformer's zeal, eventually establishing some kind 
of a record in hoisting the young to the driver's seat of the water wagon. 
One of the prized documents in the safe in his saloon was a list of the 
men whom he had forced to take the pledge. The list contained nearly a 
hundred names of citizens who had been corralled by Jim Pendergast 
in the company -of John Barleycorn and rushed in a hack to a Catholic 
church, where they were sweated by the saloonkeeper and the priest until 
they signed the pledge. Pendergast stored these papers in his safe after 
solemnly warning the signers that if they broke their promise they would 
lose the frienship of Jim Pendergast. It was no light threat and it 
worked in a reasonable number of cases. Several men who later became 
important figures in Democratic affairs owed their start on the straight- 
and-narrow way to the saloonkeeper of Old Town. 

Tom Pendergast had a normal liking for the taste and effect of bourbon 
but he, too, eventually became one of the abstinence men although he 
never tried to pose as a temperance model like Shannon or compete with 
evangelists like Jim. 

AJderman Jim carried his temperance ideas into his political work to 


the extent of refusing to do anything for any member of the police force 
who was dropped for intoxication while on duty. By personal example 
and disciplining of his political following, he sought to inculcate the 
good saloonkeeper's creed that liquor was something to be enjoyed and. 
not abused, and reform was an individual problem. At the same time that 
he encouraged saloonkeepers and their patrons to conduct themselves 
with moderation, he used all of his influence to fight their battles. He fol- 
lowed this line in all of his operations on the North Side. 

Pendergast's attitude on the liquor question was based on practical 
business and political considerations, of course, but it also was possible 
to see in it the honest conviction of a man who accepted things as they 
were and tried, with the limited means at his disposal, to make them 
bearable. There is no doubt that he had a great sentimental attachment 
for the North Side and its people. To him the inhabitants of the slums^ 
the floaters in the flophouses, the shanty dwellers of the East Bottoms, 
the laboring men in the West Bottoms and the people of Little Italy were 
not the teeming masses so luridly described in the literature of the period 
as the flotsam and jetsam of society. They were personal friends of Alder- 
man Jim Pendergast. He liked to listen to their stories and took a genuine 
interest in their problems. He got them jobs on the city or county pay- 
rolls or with business friends of the organization. 

The North Side people who lived daily with want and insecurity 
naturally could make more sense out of Alderman Jim's measures to 
assist them than they could from the arguments of the agitators who 
wanted to make over America and change everybody's habits. The North 
Siders went to Pendergast for more than jobs. They went to him when 
they were in trouble and needed someone to soften the stern hand of 
justice. Many of them got fuel and other supplies from his precinct cap- 
tains when they were down and out. Others ate his turkey and trimmings 
at the free Christmas dinners which he gave for the Old Town derelicts, 
beginning with fifty guests and growing into the hundreds as the num- 
ber of drifters increased year after year. 

These people remembered Alderman Jim as the hero of the 1903 flood 
that inundated a part of the North Side and made hundreds homeless. 
Jim lived in his buggy, day and night, traveling over the scene directing 
rescue work and the temporary housing and feeding of the refugees. 


Afterward he took the lead in the movement to rehabilitate the North 
Side. The agitators and reformers might some day make it possible to re- 
make Old Town but while the millennium was being prepared the first 
Coat boss served as an efficient sort of practical humanitarian. 

Alderman Jim's hold on,the North Side reached its high point at the 
same time that the fights on the saloon and the boss system entered 
their major phase. Making his ninth and last race for alderman in 1908, 
Jim rolled up his largest majority, 1,330 to 443, and had the pleasure of 
seeing a Democratic administration returned to power in the City Hall. 

By 1910, Jim Pendergast was failing in health and ready to retire, al- 
though he was only fifty-four years old. He looked forward to a serene 
period in which his brothers would take care of the saloon and political , 
interests of the family while he devoted his attention to chicken raising 
on his farm. "No mixed breeds for me," he said. 

All angles of the prospect were pleasing. The organization was at its 
peak and Brother Tom, then thirty-seven and fully seasoned for his work 
,as boss, was taking over the Pendergast aldermanic seat from the First 

"Brother Tom will make a fine alderman, and hell be good to the boys 
just as I have been," Jim remarked to a group of cronies in his saloon. 
"Eighteen years of thankless work for the city; eighteen years of abuse, 
eighteen years of getting jobs for the push is all the honor I want." 

He died a year and a half later. ) 

On the base of Pendergast's statue in Mulkey Square this inscription 
was placed: 

This monument is erected by general contribution as a tribute to the rugged 
-character and splendid achievements of a man whose private and public life 
was the embodiment of truth and courage. 

A more flowery statement was written in a second bronze tablet on 
the base of the monument but perhaps the sincerest tribute came from 
Colonel Nelson's paper, which said: 

"Alderman Pendergast had a code of ethics all his own. He never failed 
to take political advantage of an opponent. But he regarded a political 
promise as binding and never broke his word. He hated an ingrate. In- 
gratitude in his mind was an unforgivable sin. 

"His support of any man or measure never had a price in cash." 



THE ENEMIES of Colonel Nelson had to wait until two years before his 
death before they got a chance to see him humiliated in a way that seemed 
adequate to their profound sense of grievance. They had almost given up 
hope that retribution would overtake the Baron when a sensitive Circuit 
judge turned a divorce case into a cause ctlcbre, declaring that Nelson's 
Star was guilty of contempt in reporting the domestic difficulty and rul- 
ing that the judicial dignity would be satisfied only when Baron Bill was 
behind jail bars. 

For years the Colonel had been guilty of a very low opinion of numer- 
ous judges and on the subject of lawyers he was generally full of con- 
tempt. Lawyers had shaped the laws of the land, packed the courts and 
conducted their business in a manner that made justice a commodity re- 
served for the highest bidder, as the Daily W. R. Nelson said often and 
in various effective ways. Lawyers were the fixers for corporations and 
manipulators of the political machine. In the Star's language the lawyers 
were, with few exceptions, fee grabbers. 

Nelson's reporters and editors usually aimed their shots well, but they 
fired so many salvos in so many directions at once that it was only natural 
that they should wound a bear now and then, with the familiar conse- 
quences to the luckless gunner. One notable instance was when a Kansas 
City lawyer who was a former member of the Missouri Legislature col- 
lected fifteen thousand dollars for libel on two innocent-looking words. 
He demanded redress after the Star carried a story reviewing his career 
and reporting that he "did well" in a legislative way. This legal fellow 
refused to regard doing well as a fair estimate of his efforts, but instead 
considered the phrase a scandalous imputation of political boodling ex- 
pressed in a familiar Missouri language, and he found a court that agreed 
with his interpretation. 

A more famous example of reportorial embarrassment was given in the 
contempt issue raised by Circuit Judge Joseph A. Guthrie early in 1913. 
The Judge was elected to the Circuit bench of Jackson County in 1910 
with the backing of the PendergJasts. He brooded for a long time over the 
Star's attitude toward his profession and it is conceivable that he was 


unable to get the Star's policy out of his mind when he considered the 
question of whether Colonel Nelson ought to go to jail. 

The case grew out of the divorce action of Clevinger v* Clevinger, a 
quarrelsome couple who set the stage for an incident that drew national 
attention when they decided not to go through with dissolution of the 
matrimonial ties. Mrs. Clevinger asked that her suit for divorce be dis- 
missed and her three lawyers requested the Court to order that her hus- 
band pay her attorney's fees, the total amount involved being sixty 
dollars. The Court so ordered, following well-established precedent in 
the matter. His Honor hit the ceiling of his chamber when he read the 
Star's account of this routine affair, for the newspaper story was thor- 
oughly garbled and unfavorable to the Judge. In brief, the story and head- 
line created the impression that the Court had subordinated the client's 
interest to the lawyers', holding that fees must be paid before alimony 
was allowed, and that he had awarded sixty dollars each to three lawyers 
in a divorce suit which never came to trial. 

" *ph.e Judge decided on drastic reprisals, and he didn't need the encour- 
agement which he found in Democratic circles, for he was explosive 
spontaneously. However, some of the leaders of his own party were dis- 
turbed by the impetuousness with which he went about the business of 
humbling the great man on the Star. One of his judicial colleagues and . 
fellow Democrat, Judge Ralph S. Latshaw, criticized him publicly. 

"This is the greatest outrage ever perpetrated by a court of justice," said 
Judge Latshaw. "It's a case of putting away Caesar that Rome might have 
a holiday." / 

Goats and Rabbits, nourished for years on Star hating, crowded^into 
Judge Guthrie's court to witness the spectacle of Colonel Nelson being 
clapped in the calaboose. The proceedings before Judge Gythrie were 
brief and the defense's efforts to introduce certain evidence were brushed 
aside. Joe Guthrie had made up his mind as to the defendant's guilt and 
his punishment one day in jail. 

But the sentencing of Colonel Nelson didn't turn out to be the circus 
that the enemies of the editor expected to see. The Star's official biography 
of Nelson carries this awed report of his effect on the assembled lawyers, 
sheriff's deputies, spectators and apparently everyone except Judge 


"Those who were in the courtroom that day will never forget the scene; 
the noble dignity 6f the white-haired man, while about him shuffled and 
whispered and leered the crowd of political creatures, and he the only 
calm, unruffled, unexcited one amid it all. The political rabble that day 
was given to glimpse the strength of character of a great man, and it 
awed them, absolutely awed. Then they began to sense the wrong they 
were doing, and it shamed them. When the proceedings were over, even 
the judge, on the bench saw that his crowd had slunk away from him." 

The thing that actually impressed the Judge and disappointed the leer- 
ing crowd was the quick work of Frank P. Walsh, one of the Democratic 
lawyers engaged to defend the Colonel. Mr. Walsh noticed the Judge 
reading from a paper when he began to deliver his decision. He respect- 
fully interrupted the Court, asked if he was reading his opinion. Upon 
being informed that such was the case, he asked when the decision was 
written and was advised that it had been prepared the night before the 
hearing. The official court record contains this colloquy: 

Mr. Walsh: I think the record ought to show that your honor had his de- 
cision in this case written before the hearing began, if that be a fact. 

Judge Guthrie: That is the fact. 

Mr. Walsh: Then let the record show that at the conclusion of the arguments 
the judge of this honorable court read his decision, which was prepared in 

Judge Guthrie: The decision was in the breast of this court and it was as easy 
for this court to prepare its opinion at one time as another. 

Mr. Walsh: Then it was prepared before this hearing. 

Judge Guthrie: Yes. 

The Judge was not only in an excessive hurry to prepare and deliver his 
opinion against Nelson; he also was impatient to see Colonel Nelson 
in the hands of the sheriff and on the way to jail. He insisted that the 
editor be not allowed to loiter in the courtroom while his attorneys' hastily 
prepared application for a writ of habeas corpus to spare him the in- 
dignity of being seized by the sheriff and hauled off before the riffraff. 
Mr, Walsh asked for only ten minutes for his distinguished client but 
Guthrie said the case was closed and called for the sheriff to do his duty. 

The courtroom crowd grew impatient, raising a shout: "What are they 
waiting for?" But Lawyer Walsh was an expert at stalling and he was 


killing time with a purpose. He and another Democratic lawyer, James 
P. Aylward, had prepared for this eventuality. In a room on the floor 
above Judge Guthrie f s court, a j udge of the Kansas City Court of Appeals 
had been posted to go in session the moment that word was flashed. The 
signal was given when Nelson was sentenced, and while Walsh pleaded 
for time from Guthrie, his associate obtained from the Appellate Court a 
temporary writ of habeas corpus. That instrument finally was served in 
time to permit Nelson's release before he actually suffered formal arrest 
and imprisonment. 

The Court of Appeals quickly decided it did not have jurisdiction in 
the case and passed the difficult question on to the Supreme Court of 
Missouri. Meanwhile the newspapers of the nation took up the cudgels 
for Nelson, raising a great clamor over the manner in which Guthrie was 
attempting to railroad the Kansas City publisher to jail, and hailing the 
Colonel as one of the immortals in the ancient battle for freedom of the 

Three months later the Supreme Court delivered its opinion, a master- 
piece of legal logic, philosophical wisdom and political sagacity. In an 
exhaustive report prepared by Judge Woodson and concurred in by all 
other members of the bench, the Court found that the Star was guilty of 
contempt, as charged, and freed Mr. Nelson. The opinion pointed out 
that the editor was only "constructively guilty," the real culprit being a 
reporter named Murphy. Nelson had no knowledge of the contemptuous 
item until after it appeared in the paper, but under the law he was re- 
sponsible for the publication. He was discharged from the sentence of a 
day in jail because the Supreme Court found he had been deprived of 
his rights as a citizen under the constitutional provisions for due process 
of law, and upon this point the Supreme Judge was most eloquent, citing 
appropriate sections of the Missouri and United States constitutions, 
quoting from Proverbs and Revelation and listing an impressive array 
of precedents. Winding up on a patriotic note, the Court slipped in a 
line that seemed to express its exasperation over the whole business, 
when it remarked: "This is the best form of government given to man 
upon earth, but thank God we are promised a better one in the world 
to come.** 


The Star accepted this draw as a victory and celebrated it with a long 
and forceful editorial restatement of its case against lawyers and judges 
in general. 

The aging Baron had no intention of retiring or even relaxing before 
he had to, and his bout with Judge Guthrie simply served to focus more 
attention on the grand finish he was making. A year earlier he had made 
his supreme effort in the national political arena when he resigned his 
post as Republican national committeeman to follow Teddy Roosevelt 
out of the G.O.P. and stand with him at Armageddon battling far the 
Lord and Bull Moose progressivism. 

"The Republican Party is dead, as it deserves to be/' he told an Eastern 
newspaperman who interviewed him. "The contest will be between 
Roosevelt and Wilson. The Republican Party has gone as the Whig 
Party went. It has finished its work and is done." 

After Roosevelt's defeat and Wilson's election, Nelson threw the 
Star's support behind the progressive measures introduced by the Demo- 
cratic president in the New Freedom phase of his administration. Mean* 
while, at home, the Colonel's paper pushed the Nonpartisan movement 
in municipal affairs with fresh vigor. In 1914, a little more than a year be- 
fore he died, the Star conducted a stunning campaign for Nelson's pet 
proposition the commission form of city government. It was in this 
campaign that the Star's agitation finally broke the will of the local Re* 
publican organization. 

Nelson's farewell in the long struggle over the City Hall occurred 
at a time when the Democratic factions were beginning to quarrel again. 
Tom Pendergast, feeling his oats as the new boss in Alderman Jim's 
seat, was growing restive over his partnership with Joe Shannon under 
Fifty-Fifty, but the Goat and Rabbit factions closed ranks to meet the 
latest threat presented by the Star Party. There was a Republican ticket 
in the race but the Nonpartisan represented the real opposition. The Star 
conducted a long preliminary educational campaign and climaxed it 
with a mammoth rally. 

Three days before the election, the Republican candidate for mayor 
dramatically withdrew from the race and released his following to the 
Nonpartisan ticket. It wasn't enough to turn the tide and the election 


resulted in another Democratic landslide. Mayor Henry L. Jost, running 
for re-election, almost doubled his majority of two years before. 

Following the city election campaign, Nelson engaged in another 
furious battle which was precipitated by a proposal, backed by the Jost 
administration and both Democratic factions, to give the Metropolitan 
Street Railway Company a thirty-year franchise. The Star's publisher, 
then in his seventy-third year and beginning to fail in health, person- 
ally directed the newspaper's attack on the machine's generous plan to 
bolster up an inefficient corporation at public expense. The case against 
the franchise for the company, which was floundering in the morass of 
^receivership through mismanagement and long watering of stock, was so 
one sided that many party leaders who were known friends of the cor- 
poration declined to enter the public debate. 

Despite its weakness in argument, the new franchise won approval 
at the polls by a majority of 6,788 votes, carrying all but three' of the city's 
sixteen wards. Labor joined with the corporation and the political bosses 
to carry the day, as the street railway employees had been promised better 
wages and working conditions if the franchise was adopted. It was not 
simply a victory for the Democratic administration but a victory for the 
machine that operated in both parties. Republican ward bosses worked 
side by side with Democrats for the franchise. The banner majorities 
came from the Pendergast river wards, showing that the trend which 
crushed the Nonpartisans was still working. 

Nelson put his reporters to work developing a postelection scandal, 
airing various charges that the franchise majority had been obtained by 
fraud through purchased votes and repeaters. This storm blew strong 
for several days after the newspaper published the confession of a vote 
repeater, a floater from Chicago, who admitted he had earned two bucks 
by voting twice. However, the investigation expired suddenly when he 
was whisked away on a two-year prison sentence meted out by a Circuit 
Court Judge who said he was making an example of the prisoner as 
a warning to all election cheaters* The two-year term also served as a 
warning to squealers, and no further confessions were forthcoming. 
This swift disappearance of the vote-fraud informer had the effect of 
deflating the Stars agitation for a grand jury investigation to seek out 
"higher ups," and the furor ended with the newspaper supporting a 

; 5. /. Ray in The Kansas City Star 

The Only Issue 

The machine issue grew steadily until 1940. This cartoon appeared in the climactic 
campaign of that year. 


movement to get a parole for the poor Chicago citizen who had ex- 
posed the system and was the only one seriously affected by this crusade. 

Following this run of election setbacks, Nelson opened a campaign 
for a new law establishing election machinery for Kansas City that would 
^discourage vote frauds, and he was in the midst of that struggle when 
he fell in his last illness. Exhausted by the franchise fight, he took a va- 
cation in the Colorado mountains but when he returned he didn't move 
with his old vigor. His employees noticed that he left his desk at five 
in the evening instead of the customary six. Then his physicians ordered 
him to stay in his home, Oak Hall, but he did not rest, for he had tele- 
phones installed in various rooms so he could keep in hourly communi- 
cation with the office. He was put to bed and slipped into long periods of 
unconsciousness, but a month before his death he rallied and called his 
editors to his home to map out new plans for the election reform bill 
then pending in the ^lissouri General Assembly. He followed that by 
telephoning the office with suggestions for a cartoon and an editorial. 
His last editorial was a call for reform, and in it he spoke again as the 
Tilden Democrat, appealing to the Wilson Democrats of Missouri to 
rise for the progressive cause a$d force their representatives to approve 
the election bill. The campaign aroused twelve Democrats and one Re- 
publican in the state Senate, far too few to save the election reform. The 
bill was killed by the simple expedient of keeping it buried so deep on 
the calendar that it couldn't be considered before adjournment. The 
machine lobby was working so efficiently that it even seriously threat- 
ened to upset the primary law that was adopted in the Folk reform 

Shortly after this, Nelson dropped into his last sleep. The man who 
never lost had closed his career with three defeats, and the tide of reac- 
tion was rising fast. Apparently his mind was on this, for he roused one 
night at midnight and sent his farewell to the Star through his son-in- 
law. "Those messages of sympathy and appreciation have been fine," 
he said. "But remind the men at the office of one thing. The interests that 
are against Kansas City are still in control. The fight on them mustn't 
let up, no matter if they do say nice things about me." He died April 13, 

They said an extraordinary number of nice things about him after he 


was dead. Indeed the praise was so fulsome that it seemed that William 
R. Nelson was to be canonized in- the popular mind as one of the 
American saints. This undoubtedly would have pleased the old man, 
for he was vain and loved flattery, but some of it must have bored him* 
profoundly. For William Rockhill Nelson, the public-spirited citizen, 
the great humanitarian, patron of the arts and education, builder of 
parks and boulevards, was also Baron Bill, the imperious man of 
wealth and privilege, the hard-fisted businessman and ruthless fighter. 

He left in trust to his heirs his wife and a daughter a large estate 
that was eventually devoted mostly to public benefit through the funds 
that financed the magnificent William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art 
on the site of old Oak Hall. The Nelson trust had grown in value to 
some twelve million dollars when his daughter died in 1926. The pub- 
lisher's widow and daughter left personal fortunes totaling nearly three 
million dollars which were added to Nelson's memorial u^ the art 

Nelson knew that his paper would continue for some time under the 
control of his family and he probably guessed that his old associates 
would show enough enterprise to purchase the property after his wife 
and daughter died. At any rate, he expected that his influence would not 
die with him, and he spoke of the crusade for free and honest elections 
and fof* impartial courts as his legacy to the Star. "My scheme is to drive 
the money out of the voting booth and out of the courthouse," he ex- 
plained in a letter to his great friend, Theodore Roosevelt. "The govern- 
ment must bear the entire expense of all elections and justice must be 
really and not merely nominally free." 

His heirs immediately faced a number of fights in carrying on his 
work but on the day of his funeral there was a general truce in honor 
of the town's First Citizen. Stores and public schools closed in the af- 
ternoon. Post offices were closed during memorial services in Oak Hall. 
Trolley cars stopped for five minutes in tribute to the streetcar com- 
pany's greatest opponent. Politicians of Kansas and Missouri came to 
attend the rites. Courts and public offices in Kansas City, Kansas, closed, 
but on the Missouri side some of the offices in the Courthouse remained 
open and none of the offices in the City Hall closed, for there were many 
Goats and Rabbits who knew that Baron Bill wouldn't stay in his grave. 



DESPITE its name, the famous Kansas City Fifty-Fifty deal didn't always 
come out even and it operated only about half of the time. It was, how- 
ever, a very useful device in the building of the machine. Without it, 
the Democratic organization might have disrupted itself permanently 
in factional warfare. When the machine finally developed to the point 
where Fifty-Fifty was considered no longer necessary by Tom Pender- 
gast, the organization began its spiral out of control. For anyone inter- 
ested in the mechanics of boss government, a little attention to Fifty- 
Fifty is time well spent. 

Joe Shannon is reputed to be the architect of Fifty-Fifty and it is cer- 
tain that he expected to be the principal beneficiary from it, as in fact he 
was. Mike Pendergast felt oppressed by Fifty-Fifty and long agitated 
for its abolition. Tom Pendergast benefited somewhat from it but never 
seemed happy with the arrangement. Jim Pendergast, wise founder o 
the Goats, put it into effect after a private confab with the Rabbit boss 
in a campaign where the positions of both were being jeopardized by 
factional strife. 

A political organization composed of two approximately equal fac- 
tions, one serving as a check on the other, would have certain advantages 
over a single command if a way could be found to establish effective co- 
ordination, and Fifty-Fifty offered that way. It provided that the rival 
bosses get together before a campaign in an effort to agree on' a slate of 
candidates. Where there was a difference on certain offices, each faction 
offered its favorites in the primary and both sides abided by the result, 
supporting the nominees in the final election. No matter which faction 
succeeded in getting more men on the winning ticket, the patronage 
was to be divided fifty-fifty. That was the hitch in the plan, and the 
thing that finally wrecked it. 

Tom Pendergast eventually changed Fifty-Fifty to Seventy-Thirty, 
and he started in that direction a year after Nelson died when the Goats 
and the Star worked together to pry Mayor Jost out of the City Hall and 
give Joe Shannon more time for reading his law and history books. The 
collaboration did not entail a change of policy on the part of either the 


newspaper or the North Side Democratic boss. Suppression o the Rab- 
bit leader at this juncture was to the mutual advantage of the news- 
paper and Pendergast, although for the latter it meant temporary 
eclipse of his party in local affairs. 

Pendergast had been fairly quiet but not idle in the four-year period 
when Shannonism was reaching its crest through the Rabbit boss's asso- 
ciation with the Honorable Henry L. Jost. While Shannon advised, and 
Jost administered the city government, Tom organized the precincts as 
they had never been organized before. He went about this prosaic spade- 
work with the diligence and methodical care of a census taker. He 
studied election returns with the same interest that Joe Shannon dis- 
played when he read a paper by Jefferson. Alderman Jim's efficient for- 
mer bookkeeper was a businessman and he worked on the theory that 
politics was not a science, an art or a drama of campaign time but a year- 
round business. The basis of that business was not candidates pr policies 
but trained precinct workers who served each day in the year, and voters 
who were registered, pledged, committed, satisfied and ready to deliver. 

Pendergast began the work of restoring the Fifty-Fifty balance by 
raiding in Shannon's old stronghold, the county. Winning a controlling 
hand in the County Committee along with Shannon, he emerged as a 
state committeeman. He followed that by electing a majority of the 
County Committee and naming one of his lieutenants to the chairman- 
ship. Another important gain was the election of one of his chief lieu- 
tenants to the post of presiding judge of the County Court, which was 
an administrative body corresponding to the County Commission in 
other localities. A series of operations against the Rabbits in the City 
Hall accompanied these maneuvers in the county. 

Politicians were quick to recognize the qualities that made Pender- 
gast a forceful leader, but to the general public he was largely a name - 
a saloonkeeper and a ward boss who was seldom seen despite the fact 
that he had held three offices. He had been street superintendent in 
Mayor Reed's first term, a county marshal for one term, street superin- 
tendent for a second time under Mayor T. T. Crittenden and a council- 
man for three terms. He retired with a reputation as a public servant 
who made no speeches, handled patronage matters most efficiently and 
intimidated opponents with his powerful fists. His pugnacity brought 


him into a brush with the law in his second term as street superintendent. 
Pendergast's arrest was ordered following an incident in which he inter- 
fered with, and frightened off, three police officers in Sullivan's saloon 
on the North Side when they attempted to arrest two suspected mis- 
creants. Called to a hearing before the mayor, Tom explained that he 
had stopped the police because they were hounding one of the two fugi- 
tives, a former convict who was trying to go straight. The Mayor dis-^ 
missed the case with a light reprimand for his persuasive street 

A Pendergast interview acquired a certain fearsome quality as the 
result of an incident in his tenure as an alderman. A fellow alderman 
who had crossed him was summoned to Pendergast's cubbyhole office 
off the lobby of his Jefferson Hotel. The Boss was reported to have locked 
the door so rhe erring public servant could not escape until Mr. Pender- 
gast tired of hitting him. 

These stories tended to exaggerate the Pendergast pugilistic prowess, 
which was formidable enough, at the expense of his other attributes. The 
Boss did much to correct the popular impression of himself in the cam- 
paign of 1916, when he exhibited talent as strategist, intriguer, organizer 
and long-range planner along with ruthless fighting spirit. 

The Shannon-Jost forces won the first round when Pendergast at- 
tempted to corral the mayoralty nomination for his personal friend and 
business associate, R. Emmet O'Malley, who rode on Tom's coattails 
to power and pelf and later followed him to prison. Pendergast made a 
bitter fight in the primary campaign but was unable to overcome the 
combination of Jost's popular prestige and Rabbit control of the City 
Hall and the Police Department. Mayor Jost was nominated for a third 
term but the fight did not end there. Pendergast decided the time had 
come for a revolt. 

At the Democratic city convention which ran roughshod over the 
Goat candidates for mayor and aldermen, Pendergast bluntly stated 
his intention not to abide by the result. His revolt took the form of a 
political knifing, an operation that was accomplished by an order to his 
following to vote for the Republican candidate for mayor. At the same 
time, Pendergast offered a set of independent candidates for aldermen 
in the wards he controlled. 


The police power figured spectacularly in this new showdown be- 
tween the factions with the advantage on the Jost-Shannon side, repre- 
senting a reversal of the situation that existed in 1904 when Shannon had 
made his bolt. Pendergast awoke on election day to find that police 
friendly to his faction had been moved to the woods for the day. The 
Jost-Shannon guardians of the law exhibited extraordinary concern in 
preserving order, starting with a roundup of Pendergast workers long 
before dawn. More than two hundred were jugged before the polls 
opened, and exciting scenes were staged in courts and police headquarters 
when Goat politicians obtained writs of habeas corpus to free their 
friends, and police officials defied them. However, the Rabbit coup 
failed to save the Jost-Shannon ticket. The North Side boss elected five 
of his followers to the lower house of the Council and could count the 
knifing a 'Complete success despite the fact that the Republican-Star 
ticket took everything else. 

Joe Shannon was demoralized and "muling in his tent,'* to use old Jim 
Pendergast's phrase for a sore f actionalist. Fifty-Fifty was dead for the 
time being and Tom was free to play a solitary hand until he found it 
profitable to renew the Goat-Rabbit alliance. He followed up the knifing 
by winning firm control of the County Committee in the August pri- 
maries. His ticket for county and state offices was nominated and elected. 
Jim Reed was returned to the United States Senate. The new governor, 
Frederick D. Gardner, was a Democrat who was politically indebted to 
the new leader of Jackson County's Democracy. The Goats moved into 
the Courthouse and events were forming that would restore them to 
power in the City Hall at the next election. Boss Tom Pendergast had 


THE STORMS attending expression of the popular will at the polls created 
a widespread impression that boss politicians spent most of their time 
hatching plots and schemes to complicate the lives of normal people. 
The contrary was the case. The Kansas City politicians as a class were 
among the most convivial of men, full of the milk of human kindness, 
and they devoted no more time to the business of mayhem and assassina- 


tion than the nature o their operations required. Between campaigns 
they concentrated on the task of restoring peace and cultivating happi- 

The social side of boss politics was particularly conspicuous in the 
Goat faction, which was so earnest in the endeavor to relax the com- 
munity that the entertainment went on almost continuously, regardless of 
changes in administration, factional disturbances, economic and social 
crises that shook the nation and wars that upset the world. Tom Pender- 
gast gave major encouragement to the Democratic tradition of festivity,, 
and his success in this promotion increased his personal popularity and 
widened his political following. It also drew upon him the unfavorable 
attention of an important element who felt that the frivolity on the North 
Side was sinful competition with more sober lines of business, but the 
Boss did not let these solemn individuals spoil the fun. 

Pendergast had the assistance of numerous sports who were imagina- 
tive and industrious in devising ways to break the monotony of living in 
a money-making society. Prominent among the interesting characters in 
this company was Booth Baughman, who had been an intimate of Al- 
derman Jim Pendergast and moved in Brother Tom's inner circle. He 
took the lead in promoting some excitement in the early days of Tom's 
regime. Booth combined both the practical and romantic sides of recre- 
ation. He never took a serious interest in any game unless it was played 
with money, but he was always a sportsman in business. In recognition 
of this distinction, the money circulated in games of chance was known 
as Baughman currency. 

Baughman lived at Tom Pendergast's Jefferson Hotel and assisted in 
its operation, the establishment being conducted in a manner to suggest 
the extreme liberalism of the founder of the Democratic Party in whose 
honor the hotel was named. Shortly before participating in the Jefferson 
venture, Booth staged a determined revival of Missouri River revelry 
which agitated the Star and other guardians of civic decorum for a 
couple of seasons. 

In the river entertainment, Baughman was "assisted by two other 
widely known Goats, Phil McCrory and John J. Pryor, who first at- 
tracted political attention as North Side saloonkeepers and later were 
more celebrated as business associates of Tom Pendergast in wholesale 


liquor and concrete. With their backing, Baughman brought the river 
boat Saturn to Kansas City, fitted it out as an excursion craft with ac- 
commodations for adventurous and sentimental ladies and gentlemen, 
running on a schedule designed to mock the bluenoses of Missouri and 
Kansas. The proprietors literally and figuratively thumbed their noses at 
prosecutors and peace officers of city and state, declaring they operated - 
under the navigation laws of the Federal government, which allowed for 
wide latitude in excursion pastimes. 

The Saturn's 1910 season was highlighted by a mass raid when the 
boat docked at the foot of Main Street, police rounding up about a 
hundred and fifty excursionists on charges of frequenting a gambling 
establishment. That was followed by court action against the proprietors, 
which ended with the judge ruling that the city's police authority ex- 
tended to the middle of the river. Mr. Baughman was only temporarily 
discouraged by this interference, but the river celebration finally elided in 
1912, when public agitation over the Saturn reached its height after a 
gambler committed suicide by diving from the deck of the boat into the 
Big Muddy. 

The Jefferson Hotel, which Pendergast purchased the same year that 
the Saturn made its final excursion from Kansas City, carried on the Old 
Town revival for seven more years. The hotel was a six-story brick af- 
fair, a modest establishment in -the old part of the city, near Market 
Square, but it acquired more than local notoriety after the Goat boss 
made it the headquarters for politicians and convivial citizens who never 
wanted to go home. The hotel's chief charm was the cabaret in its base- 

There was nothing quite like the Jefferson celebration anywhere else. 
Some survivors describe it as a revival of the original Free and Easy, 
which started in the joints of Old Town where first were combined the 
dramatic and musical arts for frontier society. It was easy to get in, but 
it cost plenty to get out. These places were called burlesque houses, but 
developed along quite classical lines and carried such imposing names as 
The Coliseum, The Theater Comique and The Fountain Theater. They 
mixed entertainment and refreshment in much the same manner as the 
Jefferson Cabaret. 

In Hank Clark's place, the original Free and Easy, the drinks came 


with frontier jokes, songs and dances. In Valentine Love's Theater 
Comique, variety numbers were offered between the acts of famous 
melodramas like Mazeppa, The Mountain Meadow Massacre and The 
Flaming Arrow, the customers being served at the bar or at their seats 
before the stage. In Martin Regan's Fountain Theater, dizzy blondes 
served the drinkers at tables while the show went on. Martin was a Demo- 
cratic ward boss and a character, one of the founders of the showman tra- 
dition in politics. Nobody figured out what sort of shows Martin actu- 
ally put on, and nobody cared. Everybody sang and danced. Nobody 
paid much attention to the actors on the stage and everybody applauded 
them loudly and called them back repeatedly for encores. Everything 
was good. Nothing was rotten. 

The show at the Jefferson had these characteristics, and apparently a 
fine time was had by one and all except, now and then, when some mem- 
ber of the company became too exhilarated or was unexpectedly struck 
by despondency. A brief but vivid description of the scene has been pre- 
served in an account of one of the unfortunate incidents at the hotel. 

A young woman, in Room 508, shot herself at the end of a long evening 
in the midst of the merriment in the cabaret. Her man had done her 
wrong and she was trying to drive the blues away in the stimulating 
company of a traveling man from Fort Worth, Texas. Shortly after she 
and her companion had ascended the marble stairs from the cabaret and 
retired to their room, she attempted to end iier life. 

The story of this unhappy affair was printed in the Star at the height 
of the city campaign of 1914 in which the Star was opposing the North 
Side boss. It was intended to focus scandalized attention on Pendergast's 
hotel, but the reporter who wrote the piece was more seduced than re- 
pelled by the picture he drew. "Cabaret entertainers wandered from 
table to table, singing sensuous songs," he wrote. "Midnight passed and 
the crowd of underworld habitues became hilarious. At one o'clock,, 
the hour required by law at which to stop selling liquor, the orgy was at 
its height. The hours passed and the waiters were busier than ever dis- 
pensing drinks, for the Jefferson Hotel has police protection and is free 
to ignore the closing law, observed by other cabarets. Outside the cabaret,, 
motor cars and taxis were lined against the curb and there was a babble 
of song and laughter in the grill in the basement." 


Each step along the primrose path to the pistol shot in 508 was de- 
scribed in this fascinating style. With so many interesting things going 
on, the reader was left to wonder how anyone could contemplate suicide. 

Pendergast also figured in the Twelfth Street activity, which was more 
extensive and varied than the night life on Sixth Street. He started with 
ownership of a saloon on East Twelfth and another on West Twelfth 
and became the proprietor of the street's best-known saloon when he 
purchased the Schattner brothers' three-door dispensary of cheer at 5 
West Twelfth. This oasis in the heart of the business and theatrical dis- 
trict was celebrated not only for its service but its social standing. For 
twenty-five years it had been the property of a prominent Republican 
family under whose direction it negotiated a gentleman's agreement 
with the ministerial brotherhood to observe Sunday closing one of the 
earliest and most notable gains for reform on Twelfth Street. After 
Pendergast purchased it, the saloon continued to give excellent service 
and became political headquarters for the society dedicated to the cause 
of keeping reform away. 

The Twelfth Street batde against the change that was coming was 
led by Pendergast's friend and political ally, Joe Donegan, who managed 
a theatrical hotel, the Edward. In connection with the hotel, Joe ran 
the Edward Grill or Cabaret and the Century Burlesque Theater. Joe 
was a sentimental reactionary who often declared that the three great 
evils of the twentieth century were Prohibition, Vaudeville and the 
Movies. He lost a fortune and broke his heart opposing them. 

Donegan resorted to various expedients to keep burlesque going as the 
true dramatic art of the people. He was responsible for that great innova- 
tion, smoking in the theater, and he pioneered in staging boxing exhibi- 
tions as added attractions. When those novelties "failed to revive the 
popular taste for variety shows, Joe introduced lady wrestling matches 
with a special riot squad included. One of his backstage assistants for a 
time was the redoubtable Frank James, reformed train robber and brother 
of immortal Jesse who once lived in Kansas City under various aliases. 
The combined Donegan activity has been best described as the Uplift by 
the late Steve O'Grady, writer and troubadour who made an extensive 
study of the performance when he was a reporter for the Star. Joe Done- 
gan himself was the spirit of the Uplift and his followers called him the 


King of Twelfth Street and also the Angel of Twelfth Street in recog- 
nition of his free-spending and easy-lending ways. 

Joe's work' for burlesque and humanity has been forgotten, but his 
pioneering in the cabaret started something that had long-range political 
and social consequences. Tom Pendergast's assistants at the Jefferson 
Hotel copied the cabaret routine and developed it into a political issue 
for several seasons. This evolution began in the basement of Donegan's 
Edward Hotel. It started when Joe opened a basement room as a place 
where the showgirls who lived in his hotel could get a glass of beer with 
a sandwich, after the theater closed. At that time it was against the law 
to serve liquor to women in public and the Donegan^ retreat appealed to 
many other ladies besides showgirls. They crowded in with their escorts 
and Joe put in a piano and hired a hunchback, called the Squirrel, to play 
it. The music, the beer and the food did the rest. He expanded the place, 
introduced a good floor show and a large orchestra, and the cabaret be- 
came the popular resort of the theatrical district. 

Politically, the thing about the cabaret that was disturbing was that 
it provided a popular way to circumvent the old social taboo and law 
which imposed on women the awful indignity of not being allowed to 
get tight with their men in public, and it also gave encouragement to the 
dance craze which alarmed the puritans in the years before the First 
World War. Pendergast's Jefferson Cabaret became the outstanding 
exhibit of this trend, provoking agitation that 'continued until it produced 
one of the major struggles of his first years as a political boss. 

The public scandal which the reformers created over the cabaret has 
discouraged historians from making an adequate appraisal of the old grill 
as a social institution.* America's habits were altered in several ways in 
those exciting Basement rooms, and not the least consequential result was 
the grill's effect on the nation's ear for music. To this day, no one has 
given proper credit to Joe Donegan and Tom Pendergast for their aid 
in ushering in the crooner and the torch song, without which it is difficult 
to imagine how Americans could have withstood the strain of Prohibi- 
tion, two world wars, the collapse of machine government and various 
other disorders, The old master of crooning, according to some authori- 
ties, is Tommy Lyman, who coined the term "torch" and charmed the 
crowds in the Jefferson Carbaret with his singing before he went on to 


fame in the cafes of Paris and New York. His theme song is "My Melan- 
choly Baby," a light blues number that received its finishing touches in 
the Edward Cabaret where its composer, Ernie Burnett, was musical 
director for several years before the First World War. Another famous 
song of this period is Euday Bowman's "Twelfth Street Rag/' which 
was composed in a Twelfth Street honky-tonk patronized by gamblers 
and politicians. The spirit of the buoyant and sentimental time when 
Donegan and Pendergast ran the Free and Easy is embalmed in those 
two old numbers. 

There were various other fascinating novelties and innovations in the 
cabaret, along with operations of the kind that aroused newspaper edi- 
tors, politicians, W.C.T.U. members and professional snoopers. None 
of this foolishness bothered Tom Pendergast himself for some time. The 
Jefferson was strictly a business proposition with him. He maintained his 
political headquarters in the hotel, working in a small office off the lobby, 
and left the details of the hotel's management to others. He had no ear 
for music and he wasn't the dancing type. After his marriage in 1907, 
he settled down fast as a family man. He went home early at night and 
was sleeping the sound sleep of a solid citizen when the rounders in the 
cabarets were attempting to attain a new level of befuddlement. 

Pendergast met the attacks of the reformers with patience and good 
humor for several years. In 1916, he found it more difficult to treat the 
opposition lightly, for in that year the drys staged a mammoth parade 
under the direction of the W.C/T.U., which was followed by an election 
in which Jackson County voted for statewide Prohibition for the first 
tiifie in its history. Thanks to the voting strength of the beer swillers of 
St. Louis, the Prohibition proposal was defeated in the state but it was 
obvious that the white ribbon weajrers were becoming irresistible. 

The Boss's uneasiness over the future of his hotel, cabaret and liquor 
operations was heightened by the activities of a busybody named Nat 
Spencer who made a career out of private supervision of the public 
morals. Spencer conducted his reform work as secretary of the Society for 
the Suppression of Commercialized Vice. He devoted major attention to 
the harassment of the Jefferson Hotel and Cabaret, which reached its 
climax in the final triumphant movement for the dry law. 

Spencer was a tireless investigator, persisting in the face of long dis- 


couragement from the police, who were unimpressed by his reports of 
improper activities at the Jefferson. His campaign was helped along by 
occasional disturbances at the hotel, among them the previously men- 
tioned incident of the woman in Room 508 who shot herself, the slugging 
of a railroadman who alleged he was attacked when he left the cabaret 
after resisting two persistent ladies who were attempting to take his 
dough, a fist fight in the hotel washroom and the slaying of a youth by 
the Jefferson houseman, who said the unfortunate fellow was a bandit 
who had tried to hold up a poker game on the fifth floor of the hoteL 
The Jefferson bar license was suspended for a week following the wash- 
room brawl and this was followed by a more determined assault in which 
a ministerial and W.C.T.U. delegation joined Spencer, going before the 
Police Board to demand action against the Jefferson. This agitation, com- 
bined with the clamor raised by the Star, brought about a reorganization 
in the Police Department in 1918. 

In the same year that the anti-Jefferson crusaders disturbed the control 
of the Police Department, the drys carried the day in Jackson County 
for a second time in the statewide contest over Prohibition. The St. Louis 
wets again kept the state from adopting the proposition but the margin 
of victory was very discouraging to an observant politician with large 
liquor interests. 

Perhaps the most irritating thing to Pendergast in all the reform agita- 
tion was the action of Joe Shannon, his factional rival, who added his 
voice to the chorus against the Jefferson. Joe, as usual, could tell which 
way the wind was blowing. He also had a jealous proprietary attitude 
toward the name of Jefferson, regarding himself as the spiritual heir of 
the Jefferson tradition in these parts and the proper custodian of the 
Jefferson legend. He let it be known that he felt that Tom Pendergast, 
who was a Jacksonian rather than a Jeffersonian, was bringing dishonor 
to the name of our Third President through the notoriety of Pendergast's 
hotel and cabaret. Joe's Rabbits made much of the point that they had 
their headquarters in a drijgstore while the Goats had their seat of com- 
mand in a saloon. Tom's irritation over these didoes of the Rabbits hadn't 
settled when the reformers stirred him to wrath by questioning his pa- 
triotism. The drys charged that the breweries and distilleries interfered 
with the war effort, using manpower, fuel and supplies that were needed 


for military production. Pendergast's enemies elaborated on this argu- 
ment, declaring he was handling "unpatriotic German beer" a beer that 
was brewed in Milwaukee. 

The combined effect of these blows opened Pendergast's eyes to the 
approaching disaster, and he quietly disposed of his liquor interests be- 
fore the crash came. The wartime Prohibition act was adopted November 
21, 1918, when the people still were whooping it up in the saloons over 
the signing of the Armistice, ten days earlier. It became operative June 
30, 1919, to last until the completion of demobilization. Few politicians 
or saloonkeepers believed the drought would last long and there were 
confident predictions that a national reaction would immediately set 
in. Pendergast did not share that view and turned his attention to the 
commercial prospects in mineral-water sales while the Prohibitionists 
proceeded to obtain ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment in a whirl- 
wind tour of the states. 

Prohibition killed the Jefferson and the Edward and a lot of other gay 
places. Many saloonkeepers and cabaret operators were ruined financially 
and never recovered, but Pendergast went through the emergency in ex- 
cellent condition. He was able to dispose of the Jefferson Hotel witfi the 
assistance of the city government, which suddenly got around to order- 
ing an important civic improvement, widening Sixth Street to a point 
where it took in a corner of the Goat boss's hotel, for which he was 
awarded $79,550 in 1919. The foreman of the condemnation jury, a Pen- 
dergast lieutenant, pointed out that the price allowed was larger than the 
amount that Tom had asked. He mentioned this as an illustration of Mr. 
Pendergast's moderation where his own and the public's interests were 
involved. It also served as a timely example of Pendergast foresight and 

The saloons closed "forever," January 16, 1920 actually for thirteen 
years, eleven months and eleven days. Anyone who soberly watched the 
spectacle of the final night in the saloons, grills and hotels could tell that 
this was not the last revel before the age of national sobriety dawned, but 
the beginning of a time of tremendous unrest and confusion. The sense 
of foreboding was wide and deep but no one ^guessed the disturbance 
would be as bad as it actually was. Tom Pendergast may not have shared 
these misgivings. It is not known how he spent that long evening when 


the nation said farewell to booze, but he had more reason than most 
people to celebrate. His investments were secure, he had made a good 
start in lines of business that would prove to be more profitable than 
liquor dealing, and his political organization was intact. The reformers 
had given him a beating and driven him out of the business which was a 
part of the family's tradition, but the chief result of their efforts was the 
creation of conditions that hurried him on the way to wealth and power. 

Boom Time 


MICHAEL J. PENDERGAST contributed belligerency, fanaticism and incor- 
poration to the Goat organization. Although he played second fiddle to 
his older and younger brothers, Jim and Torn, he was a major factor in 
building and operating the machine in the two periods dominated by the 
other members of the family. A monopolist at heart, he was the first 
ward leader to operate under a, charter from the courts with his Tenth 
Ward Democratic Club, Inc. He pioneered in the development of voting- 
line tactics at the polls and was forward in corporate enterprise in other 
businesses besides politics. 

Mike made himself the undisputed master of the Bloody Tenth and 
the pleasure he derived from surveying his domain was spoiled only by 
the proximity of the Ninth Ward, which was the home and stronghold 
of his immortal enemy, Joe Shannon, the Rabbit leader. Mike engaged in 
a long but disappointing effort to convert the Ninth into an adjunct of 
the Bloody Tenth. 

The principle of compromise, particularly compromise with Rabbits, 
was regarded by Mike as one of the main fallacies of democratic doctrine. 
Although he went along with his two brothers when at various times 
they decided that Fifty-Fifty was an advantageous proposition, Mike 
consistently preached the extermination of all Rabbits. The depth of his 
feeling in this matter was revealed in a campaign in which the Rabbits 
joined forces with the Ku Klux Klan to down the Goats. Addressing a 
group of his Irish followers, Mike tittered a memorable expression of 
Goat contempt for anti-Catholic yahoos and concluded: "Gentlemen, I'd 



sooner believe a Klansman than any Rabbit of the Rabbit faction. They 
want everything." 

The founder of Democracy, Inc. was in a combative mood all the time 
or so it seemed to people who didn't get along with the Goats. When 
things were too peaceful and dull, he stirred up the animals the Rabbits 
just for the exercise. One' Saturday afternoon he stepped into a Fif- 
teenth Street saloon that was a Rabbit hangout. Inside were ten robust 
trenchermen of the enemy who eyed him suspiciously and squared of? 
for trouble. Mike advanced to the bar and pleasantly invited the Rabbits 
to join him in a drink of beer. The surprised loafers lined up at the bar 
and stood with their glasses watching Mike while he raised his glass in a 
toast to Fifty-Fifty. When they lifted their glasses to drink, Mike hurled 
the contents of his glass in their faces. He didn't have a chance to escape 
and took a severe beating. "But it was worth it," he said afterward. 

Mike infused the whole Goat organization with his gay spirit, gen- 
erated much of the wild elation that swept the boys on election day and 
made the guarding of polling places a dramatic event. One of his effective 
devices was the double line at the polls, a gantlet that sometimes ex- 
tended for hundreds of feet and was filled with men and women trained 
in the ways of persuasion. The chief of the Bloody Tenth was a strategist 
who observed the old Confederate admonition to get there "f ustest with 
the mostest." Pendergast voting lines formed the night before election 
in districts where the contest was hot. On occasions when the enemy stole 
a march and formed its lines first, the Pendergast flying wedge went into 
action and usually managed to recover any lost positions. 

When,the evangelist and disciplinarian of the Goats wasn't cast down 
by grief over a Rabbit victory or some similar trespass, he was lifted up 
by the sense of glory in the fellowship of the Goats. No call of distress 
from anyone whose name was on the golden roster of the Bloody Tenth's 
brotherhood could go ignored. Mike devoted both time and money to 
the perpetuation of this legend, and was resourceful in finding ways to 
ballyhoo his unique society. He got national publicity for the Tenth 
Ward Democratic Club, Inc., in 1923 when it went to the rescue of Okla- 
homa's Jack Walton, about to be impeached as governor. Walton's ene- 
mies in the Legislature cast aspersions on his Democratic standing and 
the Governor, a Kansas City product, confounded them by producing a 


membership card signed by Mike Pendergast. In honor of this loyal son 
who was upholding the Pendergast prestige in foreign lands, Mike 
ordered, a special convocation of the boys, at which suitable speeches of 
confidence were given, resolutions adopted and $250 raised for the 
Walton defense fund. This did not save Walton but it entertained the 
Goats and impressed everyone with the wonder of Pendergast fealty. 

Along with his many other interests, Mike Pendergast was an in- 
veterate public servant and it was in this capacity that he was most useful 
to the House. He served variously as clerk of the Circuit Court, license 
inspector and city clerk, and the duties of these offices gave him a chance 
to observe closely the way business is operated and enabled him to put a 
finger in many pies. 

All of these activities and interests laid the basis for the Pendergast 
expansion in other lines of business when the saloon industry failed and 
the income from public ofSceholding proved inadequate to satisfy the 
growing needs and ambitions of the Pendergasts and their associates. 
Both Tom and Mike were energetic and resourceful in the corporate field 
and each acquired the dignity and title of "business executive" to go with 
their growing political importance. Mike became president of the Eureka 
Petroleum Company, specializing in selling oil supplies to local govern- 
ment agencies and concerns that cultivated Democratic popularity. Tom 
took a hand in various enterprises, devoting his main attention to the 
sale of concrete to politically wise contractors. 

Mike's service did not end with his work as an organizer, enforcer of 
loyalty, promoter of monopoly in business and political affairs and in- 
novator of Democracy, Inc. He kept alive the family's dynastic idea that 
began with Alderman Jim, King^of the First, and provided the Housel 
of Pendergast with an heir his son Jim, who was named for the 

The permanent chairman of the Tenth Ward Democratic Club, Inc. 
suffered from only one frustration. He went through life burdened by 
the knowledge that he was not an orator. Mike finally worked up courage 
to make his premiere in 1923 as a Democratic Demosthenes before the 
Ninth- Ward Democratic Club, Inc. which he had established in Shan- 
non's preserve. The chairman introduced him in glowing words to an 
admiring audience, but Mike was overcome by stage fright and unable 


to rise to his feet. The elocutionary honor o the Pendergasts was saved 
by his son, Jimmy, who closed the meeting with a few characteristic 

"We are but a minority now," said James, "but we will be an organized 
minority, and the day will come when the organized minority will be- 
come the organized majority." 

Young Jim prophesied truly. 


THE ADROITNESS of the Pendergast command was demonstrated most im- 
pressively in the period when the Goats were turning from the organized 
minority into the organized majority. Although Boss Tom was in funda- 
mental agreement with Brother Mike's all-f or-one ideal, he did not com- 
pletely or prematurely abandon the methods of compromise, and several 
of the successful operations of this time were based on the beautiful prin- 
ciple of collaboration. The most remarkable one was the Democratic Aid 
Society affair, which was carried out in a fashion that should favorably 
impress current experts in the field of political co-operation. 

Democratic Aid Society was the name given by the Star Republicans 
to a rival faction in the G.O.P. which contended for party supremacy 
in Kansas City for some time, the contest reaching its high point in the 
first two years of the 1920*5. The so-called Aid Society fellows also were 
designated as the Boss Republicans by the element which the Star backed. 
Whether these Boss Republicans earned the Democratic Aid label chiefly 
because they worked with or for Torn Pendergast, or mostly because 
they obstructed and threatened to eclipse the Star Republicans, is a 
question that has never been entirely settled. It is clear, however, that 
this imbroglio did give great delight and comfort to all classes of Demo- 
crats, who could see nothing but right and good in the idea of Repub- 
licans serving their Democratic superiors. 

Although Tojn Pendergast may not have had as much to do with 
Democratic Aid as the so-called anti-boss Republicans charged, he was 
in fact a large beneficiary of this movement. The legend that he had a 
numerous company of Republican politicians in his service grew through 


the years. It was said that this element in the G.OJP. conspired to offer 
weak candidates in opposition to Democrats; that it worked to place 
docile or friendly Republican members on the bi-partisan Police and 
Election boards and co-operated in other ways in exchange for favors. 
Throughout the Pendergast reign, there were various incidents and 
situations which heightened or confirmed suspicions of extensive con- 
nivance between politicians of the rival parties. In addition to receiving 
such direct aid, the Democratic boss profited from the public cynicism, 
apathy and sense of helplessness over machine politics that were induced 
by the widespread talk of collaboration behind the scenes. The gopular 
attitude was expressed in the frequently heard comment that Republican 
politicians differed in no way from machine Democrats, except that they 
obviously were not so smart. 

Republican leaders recognized the harm done their cause by such 
gossip and were chary about publicly airing charges of collusion with 
the enemy, so it is possible that this intrigue might have remained for 
the most part an open secret if the factional rivalry in the G.O.P. had 
not flared beyond control. This crisis was provoked by the rise of Tom 
Marks, who originally appeared on the scene as a cleanup police com- 
missioner for Governor Hadley and as the Republican who was going 
to take the measure of the Pendergasts on the North Side. Mr. Marks 
retired from the police commissionership with considerable prestige 
and influence and progressed so fast that he alarmed some members of 
his own party. But for some time before this -schism developed all Re- 
publicans seemed pleased over the Marks success in raiding the river 
ward precincts, that traditionally belonged to the Goats. It was the Re- 
publican Tom rather than the Democratic Tom who appeared likely to 
become the top man on the North Side, or so the Republicans said. 

Republican happiness over the new turn of events had largely evap- 
orated by 1920, when the faction opposed to Marks staged an uprising. 
These insurgents had received a rude shock when aldermen loyal to 
Marks voted with the Democrats to elect a Pendergast lieutenant to fill 
a Council seat vacated by a Republican before his term expired. They 
asserted that the Marks men had voted with the Democratic aldermen 
on every commercial measure coming before the council in four years, 


obtaining some nice plums for the business interests and making a farce 
of some of the Council sessions. 

Anti-boss Republicans declared that Marks's henchmen conferred^ 
nightly with Democratic leaders in a Broadway buffet. On Council night 
the members of the Society four out of five of the Republican members 
^of the lower house and several Republicans in the upper house caucused 
at a downtown restaurant to get their orders for the evening's per- 
formance at the formal meeting of the Council. Then, fortified with 
liquor, food, good humor and benevolence, they marched to the City Hall 
to operate the steamroller. 

Showdown stage in the G.O.P. factional row was reached in the spring 
of 1920 when the anti-Marks Republicans seized control of the party's 
city convention and nominated their ticket, headed by a crusader whom 
the Democrats denounced with righteous passion as the Star's "silk 
underwear" candidate. The newspaper had made potent use of the 
Democratic Aid label in downing the rival party faction in the primary 
campaign, and it charged that Pendergast tried to save Marks by sending 
his followers to vote in the Republican primary for Marks delegates to 
the city convention. However, it appeared that more voters objected to 
silk underwear than Democratic Aid, for in the final election the Demo- 
crats swept the field. Their own factional breach had been closed with 
the return to the fold of Joe Shannon under Fif ty-Fif ty. 

It soon became evident that in this set-to the ruling cliques were fight- 
ing over something more than City Hall peanuts, as the Democratic Aid 
contest was resumed with greater vigor in the August primary cam- 
paign, in which the Star again reported that Pendergast meddled for 
Marks, and again the anti-boss group triumphed, winning control of 
the Republican County Committee. Pendergast's desire to help Marks 
.at this point was understandable, for the Republican North Side boss 
was trying to hold the line in Jackson County against 'the Star's hero, 
Arthur Mastick Hyde of Trenton, Missouri. He roared on the scene in 
the 1920 primary to win the Republican nomination for governor, start- 
ing a long career that, seemed especially designed to irritate Jackson 
County Democrats, 

Art Hyde made Pendergastism one of his chief targets and announced 
that, if elected governor, he would fire the Kansas City Police Board 


every thirty days if necessary to make the cleanup thoroughly pleasing 
to his fellow Republicans and Methodists. Alarm in Kansas City Demo- 
cratic circles grew apace as the politicians watched Mr. Hyde win in the 
Republican primary by neatly skinning the favorite fence straddler of 
the St. Louis G.O.P. machine, who tripped over the dry issue while 
waving the flag in one hand and the Constitution in the other. Hyde was 
the kind of prohibitionist who infuriated abstinence men of the Fender- 
gast and Shannon type. The blood of the pioneer Sons of Temperance 
ran in his veins. He came from Grundy County, the home county of the 
Spickardsville Crusaders, a band of ladies who introduced the hatchet- 
and-rake-swinging tactic to dry uplift ten years before Carrie Nation. 
started out to wreck the bars in Kansas. With Mr. Hyde denouncing 
Kansas City bossism and sin in tones that left no doubts about his inten- 
tions, the Democrats called on their hatchet man, Jim Reed, and in- 
structed him to cut the Grundy County flash down to size. The Stormy 
Petrel entered upon this task with great relish. 

"Hyde," snorted Jim, "comes from a hick town. He isn't city 'broke.'* 

Hyde's home did indeed have an exceptional claim to fame in this 
regard. Historians have traced the mythical community of Poosey, tradi- 
tional home of the rubes, to Grundy County. It is located somewhere 
near Trenton, but no one has ever found it as it always is around the 
next bend in the road, over the next hill. So Jirn Reed was merely touch* 
ing a point of civic pride when he called Hyde a hick. 

"Bridlewise Jim," retorted Art Hyde, "complains because I am not 
city broke. We of the hick towns call a horse bridlewise when he re- 
sponds easily, canters, trots or gallops at the slightest touch of the reins. 
Jim Reed is bridlewise." 

Once .they got warmed up, their slugging match ran on for years,, 
settling nothing but providing vast merriment for the electorate. Re- 
publicans thought that Hyde's sarcasm was immensely superior to Reed's 
invective and they found that he had a gift for delicate imagery. One 
delightful example was his likening the golden stream of Reed oratory 
to a muddy creek in floodtime overflowing into a hog wallow. Demo- 
crats thought that Reed had the last word when, ,after much thought 
and straining, he described the mellow Hyde bass as "the steam whistle 
on a' fertilizer factory/* 


Long before this debate died down, Art Hyde was in the governor's 
chair, keeping his word to put the lid on wicked Kansas City in the 
long and painful police reform of 1921-22. During this time the Demo- 
cratic Aid issue remained alive, as Tom Marks was fighting vigorously 
to make a comeback. The political competition took a sensational turn 
in the episode of the Sunday Spotlight, a clandestine publication which 
scandalized Republicans and built up circulation by championing the 
cause of Denny Chester, a police character who was tried for the murder 
of an heiress, Florence Barton. She was shot in a parked motor car one 
night while accompanied by her fiance. Chester's defense contended 
that he was the victim of a frameup engineered by a private detective 
agency, and won a speedy acquittal for him at a trial in 1921 that pro- 
duced many lurid and bizarre incidents. Spectators were searched for 
weapons before entering the courtroom. Chester baffled medical authori- 
ties and the prosecution by losing his voice, saying nary a word through- 
out this storm. The Sunday Spotlight provided more than enough clamor 
for him, accompanying accounts of his martyrdom with broadsides 
against the Star, the anti-Marks Republicans, the Hyde police and vari- 
ous crusaders in the community until it finally was suppressed by the 
county authorities as a scandal sheet. 

Although by this time Tom Marks was on the way out of the political 
picture, the family quarrel in the G.O.P. still ran strong, for it had 
broadened to include many other matters besides the original Demo- 
cratic Aid. The faction to which Marks belonged had important con- 
nections over the state and influence in Washington, and there were 
others in it besides'Marks who hoped to take over direction of Repub- 
lican affairs in Kansas City. Its outstanding local ornament was Walter 
S. Dickey, millionaire claypipe manufacturer, who entered the publish- 
ing field in opposition to the Star, and devoted his best efforts to the work 
of trying to save the Republican Party from the influence of Governor 

Dickey turned to politics and publishing for relief from the dull routine 
of amassing millions, and succeeded only in getting rid of his money. In 
1916 he ran for senator and was beaten by Jim Reed. However, he made 
such a good showing against the Democratic champion that he never 
got over the notion he was destined to be a statesman. Needing an organ 


to further his political ambitions, he purchased the Kansas City Journal, 
a pioneer newspaper which had come on bad days and which he picked 
up in 1921 at a fire sale for one hundred thousand dollars. A friendly 
banker warned Mr. Dickey that he would lose his shirt in this venture, 
but the claypipe man went ahead in his stubborn way and was credited 
with dropping eight million dollars or so in the newspaper hopper be- 
fore he died. 

The Star publishes both a morning and an evening paper and Mr. 
Dickey felt that he, too, needed to be heard twice daily, so in 1922 he 
purchased the Kansas City Post from Bonfils and Tammen, the Katzen- 
jammer Kids of Denver journalism. Bon and Tarn had invaded the 
Kansas City field in 1909 with a silent partner later identified as J. Ogden 
Armour, directing magnate of the streetcar railway and electric light 
systems. This swashbuckling team conducted a noisy, colorful, libel- 
ous and unsuccessful effort to break the Star monopoly and were glad to 
unload on Dickey for $1,250,000. Mr. Dickey ran the Post and the 
Journal as respectable sheets, as was becoming a man of his dignity, 
social standing and Republican conservatism. Although he was unable 
to offer the Star much competition in advertising and circulation, the new 
publisher succeeded in making himself a power in the Republican Old 
Guard in the Harding period. 

The Dickey-Marks crowd ran a pipeline to the White House through 
one of its local worthies, the extraordinary E. Mont Reily. E. Mont made 
history by climbing on the Harding bandwagon when he was all alone 
there. He was the original Harding man, distinguished among politicians 
for his powers of intuition. He started getting flashes of coming presi- 
dential events when he was a boy in Texas and was the first person to 
suggest Harrison for President in 1888, according to his own account. 
He did the same thing for McKinley. He announced himself as the orig- 
inal Hughes man in 1916. He wanted to be the original Vandenberg man 
in 1936 but the Michigan Senator, probably recalling E. Mont's part in 
the Harding business, hastily deflated this boom from Kansas City. 

E. Mont saw the Harding handwriting on the wall one night while 
he was lying in bed. He awakened his wife with the exclamation, "I have 
found the man," and immediately wrote Harding a letter describing his 
vision and congratulating the Ohio Senator on his forthcoming elevation. 


When Harding came through Kansas City on a swing around the coun- 
try just before the "smoke-filled room" convention in Chicago, the 
chances for Normalcy didn't look any better than one to one thousand to 
anyone except Mr. Reily, who was the only Kansas City politician to 
meet the Senator at the Union Station. He arranged a party for the lonely 
Ohioan,' introducing him to Dickey and other Old Guard cronies. 
Harding was grateful and after his election he allowed E. Mont to advise 
in Missouri patronage matters and rewarded him further by appointing 
him governor general of Puerto Rico. 

Both the Puerto Rican and the Democratic Aid Society episodes were 
closed at about the same time. Tom Marks's last attempt to recover 
power in the Republican County Committee was put down in the 
August primary of 1922. E. Mont Reily found the Puerto Ricans un- 
appreciative of his efforts to bring Kansas City civilization to their back- 
ward island, and he stepped out as governor general after the natives had 
kicked up a storm that was heard in Washington. He returned to 
Missouri to resume his work with the Republican Old Guard and found 
various things to do while waiting for another hunch on a presidential 


Tom Marks and many other Boss Republican figures passed from 
the scene, and the reorganized G.O.P. tried to bury the ghost of the 
Democratic Aid Society but was troubled by Republican involvement in 
Pendergast politics to the last days of the machine. 


IN THOSE DAYS when he was laying the basis for Goat supremacy., Tom 
Pendergast cleared the field for himself by greasing the skids for a 
fractious sub-chieftain, Miles Bulger, and jockeying his principal Demo- 
cratic rival, Shannon, out of position. In the first of these under- 
takings the Goat boss had the good wishes of the Star for at the time 
Bulgerism was more distasteful than Pendcrgastism to the Republican 


Miles Bulger brought out the best and the worst in Tom Pendergast. 
He had that effect on many men, but the reaction was more spectacular 


in the case of Big Tom. Miles was a little man who made a big splash, a 
bantam who ran with the large roosters. His bright plumage, his strut- 
ting and crowing were both impressive and amusing. For twelve years 
he enlivened the aldermanic sessions with his quips and antics. His work 
for machine government has been forgotten, but one of his utterances 
still is remembered and quoted, more than thirty years after it was first 
delivered. It was tossed off one day when the Honorable Mr. Bulger re- 
fused to attend a ceremony at the Kansas City Art Institute. 

"Art," said Alderman Bulger, "is on the bum in Kansas City." 

This authoritative appraisal was greeted with hilarious appreciation in 
all quarters, but particularly on Twelfth Street. For some time the boys 
in the downtown saloons and poolhalls had looked with misgivings at 
the progress of things esthetic on the South Side and Bulger's comment 
served as a timely statement of their opinion. 

Pendergast hoped to use Bulger to break the Shannon hold on the 
Courthouse. He backed Bulger for presiding judge of the County Court 
and then sat back to enjoy the show. 

Tom's pleasure in this maneuver was short lived. Miles had large ideas 
of his own and his sense of importance was based on a record of consid- 
erable achievement. Starting out as a plumber's apprentice, he had forged 
ahead rapidly in both political life and business. He became a wealthy 
man through his operations in the construction field as one of the owners 
of a cement company. His skill as a political organizer brought him 
recognition as the Little Czar of the Second Ward. With his elevation 
to the County Court, an office carrying authority over the administrative 
affairs of the county, he seemed to feel that he was in a strategic position 
to set himself up as one of the big bosses. 

Republican critics of Bulger's regime made "road cinch," "pie-crust" 
-paving and "deficit" familiar terms to the Jackson County voters. The 
deficit in the road and bridge fund ran beyond a million dollars. Bulger's 
extravagance didn't upset Pendergast, but the Little Czar and the Rabbits 
worked together too well to suit some of the Goats. Important members 
of the Goat faction complained that Bulger monopolized the patronage 
and business favors in the county and warned the Boss that the Little 
Czar was double-crossing him, but Pendergast was slow to believe it. 
Pendergast put down a revolt in his faction to elect Bulger for a second 


term and went to his assistance to checkmate a grand jury investigation 
o the handling of road funds. But Bulger continued to build up his 
monopoly and run with the Rabbits, and the break came when he flopped 
to the Shannon faction in a dispute over the control of some sixty road 
overseers, the bulwark of the county machine. He followed that by sup- 
porting a candidate for governor in opposition to Pendergast's choice and 
climaxed his defiance by proclaiming that he was going to take over the 
Boss's seat at a time when Pendergast was dangerously ill from a mastoid 

To carry out the work of ridding the world of Bulgerism, Mike and 
Tom Pendergast made two of their most celebrated selections of winners. 
For one of the places on the Jackson County Court in 1922, they picked 
Henry F. McElroy, who later drew national attention as the despotic 
city manager of Kansas City, the official spokesman of the machine and 
the chief engineer of the municipal steamroller. For a second place on the 
County Court, the Goats backed Harry S. Truman of Independence, 
later United States Senator and Vice-President and now the President of 
the United States. They were nominated and elected and gave an efficient 
and economical administration of the County Court, cutting in half the 
$1,200,000 deficit which Bulger left. 

The business of properly disposing of Miles Bulger remained unfin- 
ished, however, during all the time that McElroy and Truman, worked 
together to restore Goat authority and prestige in the Courthouse. After 
leaving his county post, Bulger succeeded in getting himself elected to 
the state Legislature, through a beneficial redistricting which he had at- 
tended to while he was still presiding judge of the court. In the Legisla- 
ture he amused himself thinking up measures designed to harass the 
Goats. Bulger remained annoyingly healthy and well to do. Cut out of 
big contracts by the political combine, he managed to keep his cement 
company going with the commercial contacts he had formed. It seemed 
that nothing less than the full treatment would suppress Miles Bulger, 
and this thought was impressed on the Goats in painful fashion one day 
in 1923, when the Little Czar used his fists to settle accounts with Judge 
Henry F. McElroy. The Judge, who was tall, muscular and alert, was 
reported by the Star to have suffered all the damage in this ruckus. 
Besides injuring the Goat dignity, this story aroused the Goat sense of 


injustice, for it explained that McElroy was attacked when his hands 
were in his pockets and the Little Czar's husky bodyguard stood by 
prepared to interfere if McElroy resisted. 

The Bulger farewell in politics was a bum's rush in which the Pendcr- 
gast and Bulger factions staged a classic exhibition of the "mob primary," 
the local institution perfected by the ward bosses to enable them to keep 
the party organization firmly in their hands. Under this system, delegates 
to the state convention of the party were nominated at mass meetings 
held in each ward or township. In some of these party contests packing- 
house rules prevailed and the voters who mixed in the affray had to be 
bold and strong. 

The Goats had both passion and numbers on their side on the seventh 
of March, 1924, when their forces moved into the Second Ward strong- 
hold of Miles Bulger. The voting was to take place in the evening at 
South Side courtroom, annex of the Nineteenth Street police station. 
Bulger was prepared for trouble, having recruited a strongarm squad 
headed by Oscar Benson, the Terrible and Unterrified Swede, who con- 
sidered himself a match for the Terrible Solly Weissman, mastodonic 
champion of the Goat bruisers. But Miles depended on more than brawn 
to carry the battle. He had read of the Trojan War and his version of the 
wooden horse trick was a morning visit to the South Side court by sixty 
or so men and women from his headquarters. They sat through the 
morning proceedings and when court adjourned at noon they remained 
in their seats. They intended to stay until evening, holding the line 
against the Goats. The police judge ordered them to leave but they re- 
fused to budge. He called attendants to oust them and there was a tussle 
in which a clerk of the court got clipped on the jaw. Then the judge 
ordered the crowd locked in. 

In the afternoon the Pendergast forces gathered outside the building 
and milled around when they found the doors locked. The Bulgerites 
inside stood at the windows and hooted at them. The Goats shouted in- 
sults and threats in return. Miles Bulger arrived with his bodyguard to 
survey the situation and found everything going according to plan. He 
swaggered about, ignoring the hisses from the Goats in the line surround- 
ing the building, waving at his followers inside, who cheered him. He 
ordered coffee and sandwiches sent in to the gallant band holding the 


fort, and retired to his headquarters on the West Side Hill to direct the 
final action. 

Bulger's major stroke was delivered at dusk, shortly before the court 
was to be opened at seven o'clock for the voting. To the relief of his be- 
sieged followers he sent an army several hundred strong. Leading the 
band was a mangy donkey, escorted by the Terrible and Unterrified 
Swede Benson himself. When the Bulger army approached the court 
building, the Goat warriors locked arms. 

"Hold that line," shouted Aldermen William Flynn and William E. 
Kehoe, Pendergast lieutenants in charge of the Goat army of men and 

"Break that line," the Bulgerites shouted. 

The Terrible Solly was looking for the Terrible Swede, but before this 
desirable meeting could take place the police seized the Swede and his 
donkey. It required the services of forty stout police officers to separate 
the partisans. One man was shot. Three men were badly cut up. Women 
fainted. The son of Alderman Flynn suffered a knife wound in the 
throat which required thirty-nine stitches. He exemplified the political 
fortitude of the Goats by announcing he would be out of the hospital to 
vote in the city election five days later. 

Solly Weissman was among the fifteen battlers arrested on the scene. 
He continued the struggle in the police holdover and was testing his 
weight against four men when officers interfered and sent him to a 
separate cell. 

Fifteen minutes after the fight outside the South Side court started, the 
Goats were in complete command of the situation and their delegates 
were named. Five days later they won the Second Ward again in the 
city primary. The Bulgerites planned to rush the polls to vote for their 
own delegates to the city convention, but turned back when they found 
a long double line of Goats waiting for them. 

Pendergast had decreed political exile for the Little Czar and the 
sentence was final but Miles couldn't quit without another gesture. He 
attended a party of his followers and danced for the first time in twenty- 
five years to exhibit his Hghtheartedness. Then he joined Joe Shannon in 
the climactic struggle between the Rabbit and Goat factions that de- 
veloped almost immediately after the mob primary and reached a fateful 


decision in the fall campaign. In this endeavor he was able to extract a 
moment of delicious revenge but it was only a moment. 


CAS WELCH, the boss of Fifteenth Street, had to do some heavy thinking 
after Miles Bulger was eliminated for the Little Czar's fall brought up 
the question of the Welch future in a very pressing fashion. In thirty 
years of steady advancement as a politician, businessman and dispenser 
of Rabbit justice, Cas.had not faced so weighty a problem as this one: 
Where would he stand in the final conflict between Joe Shannon and w 
Tom Pendergast? That showdown engagement developed swiftly in 
the summer of 1924, roaring to a double climax in the August primary 
and the November general election. 

Judge Welch was a personal friend and sometime business associate of 
Pendergast. He was the protege and chief lieutenant of Joe Shannon. 
Joe had picked him when he was eighteen for the role he was to play, 
showing rare j udgment, for Cas became the most useful ally of the Rabbit 
chieftain, the one who held the line in the city against the encroaching 
Pendergast faction. The Welch organization by 1924 had grown to a 
size where Cas could consider the advantages of setting himself up as an 
independent boss. 

Boss Shannon doubtless knew what Boss Welch would do in this 
situation, and Boss Pendergast surely had a good idea of what to expect. 
The answer was, of course, that Mr. Welch would do whatever was good 
for Cas and his boys, regardless of personal, factional or party allegiances. 
The boss of Fifteenth Street played machine politics more primitively 
and openly than either Pendergast or Shannon. His headquarters was 
called Little Tammany in recognition of the fact that it was a perfect 
model of the New York organization of the days of Tweed and Croker. 
An old garage building served as the control center for two important 
wards in a business and residential area bordering the downtown section. 
The job of serving the political needs of this region required the services 
of a man of many talents, for the Little Tammany district contained 
most of the elements that go to make the modern city a bewildering com- 


plex. The boss had to work with important commercial interests and at 
the same time satisfy a large population of native whites mixed with 
Negro and foreign-born groups who existed on the subsistence level, 

Welch rose to power administering justice, after he had won some 
political recognition through his Irish geniality and pugnacity. His fight- 
ing ability when he was a boy impressed Kansas City's First Citizen, 
William Rockhill Nelson, who looked on appreciatively while young 
Cas thrashed a rival newsboy who was trying to muscle in on his corner. 
Colonel Nelson offered the winner a job as office boy at the Star but Cas, 
for some unexplained reason, refused the golden opportunity for journal- 
istic fame and fortune. 

The hero of Little Tammany figured so frequently and spectacularly 
in fist fights that many people got the idea that he owed his success large- 
ly, if not entirely, to his athletic prowess. Cas had many engaging quali- 
ties besides skill in slugging. He was recognized early as a natural leader 
of men and a favorite of the ladies. No party of the Little Rosebud Club 
or the Lady Boilermakers was a success without the presence of this 
smiling, magnetic, flashily dressed Irishman. 

Although his formal schooling ended when he was nine, Cas quickly 
learned enough to qualify himself as a, justice of the peace in a court 
where the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job were needed every 
day. Judge Welch didn't have a lawyer's degree -fortunately for him 
none was required by the law but he had the judicial temperament 
without the legal solemnity. Justice rather than dignity was his ideal. 
He made that plain at the start, posting a set of rules that pleased the 
proletarians in his district and amused members of the Kansas City Bar 
Association. Cas didn't like lawyers at the moment and his first rule 

"My idea of a justice mill is a place where people can get justice with- 
out a lawyer declaring himself in on it. Fm not going to run this court 
for the lawyers.'* 

Rule 2: "I don't know what's in the books but I can read a man's face 
as good as the chief justice of the supreme court." 

Rule 3 warned the corporations that they would not be able to deprive 
the poor man of justice in this court. "A lot of people have been bluffed 
out of court. No bluffs will go here." 


Rule 4: "People won't have to have a lawyer to get justice here. I'll be 
their lawyer." 

Rule 5: "There are too many delays and continuances in the law. They 
are part of the lawyer's game. Justice quick and cheap is my motto." 

The Justice also announced that "no spitting will be tolerated." His 
regulations for sanitation and decorum in the courtroom were enforced 
with a tolerant hand, however, for the seekers of justice who came to him 
included many men whose democratic philosophy was inextricably 
bound up with spitting tobacco juice where they pleased. Among them, 
also, were a number whose passion for right demanded fistic expression 
and Gas's free legal counsel included expert services in separating brawl- 
ing litigants. 

Gas's prejudice against lawyers and his bias against corporations, did 
not mean that these individuals and interests could not get justice in his 
court. His sympathies were so broad that citizens of every class and con- 
dition received his earnest attention. An illustration of Gas's desire to 
see everybody happy was given in the case of two litigants, both of them 
deserving parties and each bearing a promise from the Judge that he 
would get justice. Gas did not realize the predicament he had placed him- 
self in until the case was called and the two friends of the Court stood 
before him. Recovering quickly from his lapse, Judge Welch declared 
that this issue was of such a special nature that a change of venue to 
another court was required. 

The J-P courts, as they were called, in this time were in very low public 
esteem. The Star promoted a constant crusade to abolish them, but made 
little progress, for tht justice-of-peace-court system was deeply rooted in 
machine politics. Political lawyers, professional bondsmen and fixers 
operated ppenly in some of these tribunals which were once called "the 
poor man's court.** 

The reform agitators threatened to interrupt Gas Welch's career on 
the J-P bench when they organized a movement in the state legislature 
for adoption of a measure that would have required justices of the peace 
to have law degrees. That effort failed and Gas confounded his critics 
by introducing a private reform that improved his legal tone. Develop- 
ing a studious bent, he took a short course in Blackstonc.and arranged 
a special examination for admission to the bar, which he passed with 


flying colors. He was a versatile citizen and he continued his work for 
practical justice for trouble-laden Fifteenth Street society while expand- 
ing his political duties and business interests. 

Before he finished Welch had a sand company and interests in other 
concerns. He looked and dressed like a successful businessman and 
moved in the company of prominent citizens. He took up golf, gave up 
hard liquor and courted a genteel lady who had been a teacher of music 
and arts in the Kansas City schools. This woman supervised Gas's refine- 
ment, but her good work was interrupted one night when she com- 
mitted suicide. Welch's enemies circulated the snide report that his 
teacher friend took her own life out of discouragement over Cas's back- 
sliding and it was said that the Little Tammany boss grieved over this 
incident long afterward. It is easy to believe that Welch regretted many 
things in his life but it's a mistake to assume that he was lacking in a 
genuine desire to rise in the world's esteem. In fact, it may be said he 
was an exceptional success considering the environment and the sys- 
tem that produced him. Of those that grew up with Cas Welch in the 
hazardous society that created Little Tammany, hardly any had done 
well at all and no other did so well as Cas. 

The keenness and ruthlessness of the competition were demonstrated 
in numerous impressive ways in the 1924 race when Welch found he 
must choose between Pendergast and Shannon. The break between the 
major bosses came six years after the old Fifty-Fifty arrangement be- 
tween the Goats and Rabbits had been restored. Shannon had made a 
rapid comeback after 1920 and his demands for recognition and spoils 
indicated that he had not been sufficiently chastened by the knifing he 
received from Pendergast some years earlier. 

The new factional war followed a Democratic defeat in the city elec- 
tion that came less than a month after the sad affair of Miles Bulger. Boss 
Tom Pendergast felt very bitter about that defeat, for which he blamed 
Shannon. The losing candidate, Mayor Frank Cromwell, was an amiable 
butter-and-egg man who suffered a spectacular decline in political popu- 
larity in a two-year turn in the City Hall. Shannon had insisted on his 
renomination in the face of Pendergast's warnings, and protests from 
even some elements of his own faction. The electorate's quick confirma- 
tion of Pendergast's judgment on Mayor Cromwell was accepted by the 


North Side boss as final evidence that Shannon had lost his old political 
acumen as well as the right co-operative spirit. The difference between 
the bosses grew until it reached the point where Shannon determined on 
a full-scale assault in an effort to reassert Rabbit dominance over the 
Goats or at least to stem the onward march of Pendergast. He obviously 
sensed that this was his last chance to arrest the trend in favor of the 
North Side organization. 

Shannon made his bid for state power with Floyd E. Jacobs of Kansas 
City as a candidate for the gubernatorial nomination while the Goats 
backed an outstate man, Dr. Arthur W. Nelson of Bunceton, for the 
place. Shannon offered a rival slate of candidates for county offices to re- 
store Rabbit influence in the Courthouse, where the Goat prestige was 
flourishing under the administration of McElroy and Truman. Shannon's 
alarm over the recent vote trend was fully justified when the Goat 
county ticket won a complete victory and Dr. Nelson was nominated for 
governor. There was only one alternative left for Joe Shannon he must 
resign himself permanently to a minor place in the machine or use the 
knife as Tom Pendergast had done eight years earlier. 

The November election campaign presented a very confusing picture. 
Another large complication besides the Democratic factional dispute was 
the interference provided by the Ku Klux Klan. This fiooded^organiza- 
tion of religious bigotry, racial hatred and general human cussedness wa$ 
in the height of its postwar revival. The confusion it created in Jackson 
County was heightened by the fact that the Klansmen in this region were 
not the .ordinary one-hundred-per-cent Americans who were the Elian 
ideal. They were two-hundred-per-cent Americans, so aptly described in 
a popular joke of the period. They didn't hate just Catholics, Jews and 
Negroes. They hated everybody. 

The Pendergasts declared that the Klan in Jackson County combined 
with the Republicans against the Kansas City Irish. Cas Welch refused 
to go along with this hated combination, deserting his old leader to stand 
with Pendergast. His Catholic and party loyalties figured in this decision, 
along with practical political foresight. Even if Shannon succeeded in 
his current maneuver, it was evident that he was slipping, for the basis 
of his power was disappearing with the whole county finding its center 

ii 4 TOM'S TOWN 

in the city. Logically Little Tammany belonged in an alliance with the 
city machine rather than the old county-boss faction. 

In the last stand against this trend, Joe Shannon and Miles Bulger 
crossed the party line in November, delivering votes that helped to elect 
the Republican ticket to the county offices and put a Republican in the 
governor's chair. For Bulger, it was his moment of revenge. For Shannon, 
it was a brief reprieve. It would be four years before Pendergast would 
have another chance to promote a man for governor, two years before he 
could hope to recover control of the Courthouse. By this knifing, it ap- 
peared that Shannon was gaining enough time to rebuild his shattered 
organization for another round with Tom Pendergast. But his time had 
run out and he had permanently lost the services of Cas Welch, without 
whose aid he was never again in position to challenge Boss Tom. 

The Goats were furious over Shannon's treachery and there was im- 
mediate talk of drastic reprisals. The only happy Democrat the morning 
after election was Miles Bulger. He read the news of the Goat debacle 
over his morning coffee. The sun was shining and the birds were singing 
when he left his home to go downtown to celebrate the victory with his 
few surviving followers. He had waited long for this day and meant to 
enjoy every minute of it. Waiting for a streetcar, Miles saw a battleship- 
gray limousine pull up at the curb. The tires screeched to a sudden halt, 
the car door swung open and there was Tom Pendergast, all two hundred 
and twenty-five pounds of him. 

"Hello," said Tom in a tone that silenced the whistling birds and made 
Miles Bulger's world stand still. Mr. Pendergast also had waited long for 
this moment and his joyous anticipation of the next few minutes was 
obvious as he propelled his bulk toward the one hundred and thirty-five 
pound Bulger. 

Miles had no time to think, but even in this emergency he displayed 
his characteristic wit and agility, raising hands to nose to thumb a last 
insult at the same time that he turned to run in the direction that Pender- 
gast was going. Big Tom soon gave up the race and stood watching the 
former Little Czar disappear, marveling at his speed and the special dis- 
pensation that kept him just out of reach of Pendergast fists. Miles was 
still running several minutes later when a friend hailed him and asked 
where the fire was. 


"Tom Pendergast," puffed Mr. Bulger. "He's got a gun." He didn't 
pause for further explanation. 

The celebration over Tom Pendergast's defeat in 1924 was a very brief 
affair all around. On or about this day, the Goat boss scrapped Fifty-Fifty, 
leaving nothing for Shannon. Gas Welch would get whatever fraction 
Pendergast decided he should have. The day for the next act, which 
brought Big Tom to the center of the stage as the supreme'boss of Kansas 
City, was much nearer than Joe Shannon or the Republican managers 


IN THE WINTER of 1924-25, when the Coolidge inflation and Prohibition 
were beginning to hurry America's millions down the road toward finan- 
cial and moral disaster, a band of earnest men ushered in what was de- 
clared to be a new era for municipal government in Kansas City. As a 
result of their efforts, the charter under which Kansas City now operates 
was adopted. This charter was designed as an instrument to toss the old 
political bosses in the ash can. By an ironic 'turn of political fortune, it 
actually introduced the long period of Pendergast boss rule. 

The charter proponents were business and professional men, edu- 
cators, ministers, club women and labor representatives who did not share 
the prevailing postwar cynicism over the condition of democracy in 
America. They believed that democracy as an agency of political govern- 
ment could be made to work, and even was working to some extent. 
Conspicuous among these optimists were R. E. McDonnell, head of the 
Charter League, and Walter Matscheck, director of the Kansas City Civic 
Research Institute. 

Mr. McDonnell, a practical idealist, was the chief of an engineering 
firm which specialized in public utility projects for municipalities. He 
was one of the pioneers of the charter reform movement that grew out of 
the Nonpartisan agitation led by the Star under Nelson. Mr. Matscheck, 
a solemn academic gentleman, was a strange type on the local political 
stage. He came to Kansas City in 1918, with a degree from the University 
o Wisconsin, to head the Civic Research Institute, an organization with 


no official standing which was supported financially by a small group of 
business and professional men who were sympathetic to modern ideals 
and impressed by scientific talk. 

Mr. Matscheck's somewhat statistical style of oratory made an impres- 
sion that alarmed a lot of politicians who were perfectly satisfied with 
the state of democracy in the 1920*5. 

"The point" is," Mr. Matscheck argued, "that the real business of gov- 
ernment, particularly local government the unit of the city is not 
governing in any strict sense. It is administering. It is doing work, carry- 
ing on operations like street cleaning, building sewers, putting out fires, 
and so on. That's not a matter of political science, not of governing in 
the older sense. It's administrative science, and that's where democracy 
is working. The cities that have adopted the manager form of administra- 
tion are showing the state and federal governments how democracy can 
be made to work freed from the political machinery that has been built 
up around them." 

In other words, bureaucracy was preparing to save government o the 
people, by and for the people. Mr. Matscheck had evidence to support his 
case. The city manager system had a record of increasing success extend- 
ing over a quarter-century. It had been adopted in hundreds of cities, 
both large and small, where it created city councils that were thoroughly 
representative through nonpartisan redistricting. It stopped graft, 
boodling and extravagance by the institution of a budget system to con- 
trol funds. It brought a vast improvement in technical departments like 
engineering, health, street and fire protection and elevated the quality o 
personnel by introducing the merit system for selecting, retaining and 
promoting employees. It encouraged planning and kept the city expan- 
sion on a sound basis with adequate sinking funds. It enlarged the func- 
tions of city government to include social welfare, health activities and 
public provision for recreation., 

"These are really revolutionary processes,'* said Mr. Matscheck. "They 
are triumphs for democracy. The state and national governments are 
showing the same tendency that is found in city government.'* 

This was the hope of the charter campaign which reached its climax 
in February, 1925, a hope that seemed certain of realization. The charter 
election had been well timed, by its friends, for it came on the heels of 


the factional war between the Democratic Goats and Rabbits, traditional 
opponents of the nonpartisan scheme. The Democratic internal strife 
was not the only thing that cheered the Charter hopefuls. They remem- 
bered the Republican gains in the city election of 1924, and felt secure 
in the thought that the G.O.R still held the upper hand for the Re- 
publicans, under the leadership of Mayor Albert I. Beach and backed by 
the Star, were formally committed to the new charter cause. 

Under the circumstances, it was not surprising that T. J. Pendergast 
became a convert of the charter evangelists, following the old axiom that 
if you can't beat a movement, join it. His faction possibly could have de- 
feated the charter if it had chosen to oppose it but Big Tom had decided 
that he should be the one to britig nonpartisan government to Kansas 
City. He and his associates saw some things in the proposed charter that 
they liked. Joe Shannon saw the same things and was vastly alarmed. He 
resisted the reform vigorously but was overwhelmed by the strange com- 
bination that worked on election day to adopt the charter, 37,504 to 

Two of the most advertised features of the new nonpartisan charter 
were things that appealed to the town's greatest exponent of partisan or- 
ganization schemes. 

Concerning the provision substituting a single nine-man City Council 
for the old aldermanic Council of two houses with thirty-two members, 
Pendergast remarked to a reporter who respected his confidence : 

"It ought to be as easy to get along with nine men as thirty-two/* 

The new electoral system established by the charter was equally appeal- 
ing to the organization leader. The charter set up a primary for nomina- , 
tion of two candidates for each office, to be followed by a run-off or final 
election a few weeks later. All candidates were to be entered in the 
primary as "Independents," appearing on the ballot without party label 
or designation. There was ao limit on the number of candidates filing 
for the primary and the nominations went to the two candidates polling 
the largest number of votes the winner and the runner-up. As the sys- 
tem actually worked out, it strengthened the control of the bosses and 
the party organizations over the selection of officeholders. The idea that 
independent citizens would run for office without the encouragement of 
an organization was a fantasy that never provoked anything except mirth 


among practical politicians. Under the nonpartisan system, Kansas City's 
history has been a continuation of the old struggle between the two 
major parties behind the independent fajade. 

Under the old charter, the city's two-house Council had a lower 
house with one seat from each of the sixteen wards, an upper house of 
sixteen aldermen elected at large, and a mayor elected at large who sat 
in neither house. 

The new charter divided the city into four districts, replacing the six- 
teen wards, and they were expected to be more difficult to control than 
wards. Each district elected one councilman to the one-house Council and 
four councilmen were elected from the city at large. The mayor, also 
elected at large, was stripped of most of his old powers and reduced to 
the status of president pro tempore of the Council. He was given one 
vote in the Council but of his old powers he retained only the control of 
the Park Department while the authority over directors of the various 
other departments was invested in a city manager who was elected by the 
Council. The city manager, who was supposed to be a professional ad- 
ministrator rather than a politician, was of course responsible to the 
Council and could be removed by a vote of a majority of the Council. He 
was, in effect, the city's "hired man" and was so called in the innocent 
early days of the reform, but it was apparent that he would wield enor- 
mous authority and that he might become a greater power than any 
mayor had been if, by some mischance, he controlled five of the nine 
Council votes in carrying out measures that were not consistent with the 
spirit or letter of the nonpartisan charter. 

The charter promoters were not unduly alarmed over such a prospect 
for they were men of good faith who took seriously the pledges of the 
party leaders and, moreover, they expected the Republicans to win. 
Mayor Beach, the man who upset the Democratic machine in the spring 
of 1924, had a smile that had been good for five thousand votes then, and 
there was no reason to suppose that a year in the City Hall had seriously 
tanushed his toothsome charm. The Election and Police boards, which 
were not affected by the charter, change, were filled with men appointed 
by a Republican governor, so it was certain that the Democratic vote get- 
ters on the North Side would not be encouraged to run wild in the first 
nonpartisan election. 

5. /. Ray in The Kansas City Star 

"Ah, a Loophole !" 

Final machine trick under the 1925 charter occurred in the 1939 Recall contest, 
which inspired this cartoon. 


The dominant Republican and Democratic organizations went 
through the motions of observing the nonpartisan charter conventions, 
each offering tickets that ran without the old party labels but none the 
less were recognizable to all true partisans. The Beach group of candi- 
dates, selected by a city-wide committee of sixty-five and headed by 
Mayor Beach, was obviously the choice of the Republican Party and the 
Star. The group selected by the Democratic statesmen at a meeting in a 
downtown club was called the Jaudon group in honor of Ben Jaudon, 
the popular city treasurer who was picked for the mayoralty spot in 
honor of his outstanding work for the Democratic Party, he being the 
only representative of that party who had survived in the Republican 
city landslide in the previous year. 

The light vote cast in the election which established* the new charter 
had indicated the nonpartisan manager idea wasn't very exciting to the 
citizens as a whole, but the primary campaign that followed produced a 
record city primary vote. The sudden surge of interest was not caused 
by the eloquence of the candidates in presenting the nonpartisan idea 
but by a renewal of the old struggle for power behind the nonpartisan 
pretense. The complacency which the citizens later revealed in the face 
of glaring violations of the nonpolitical principle of the new charter was 
not surprising in view of the manner in which the campaign of '25 was 
conducted. The Star maintained its historic association with the move- 
ment that had been fathered by Nelson by indorsing two of the Council 
candidates in the Jaudon group. This handsome gesture from the Re- 
publican newspaper did not make much of an impression on the cynical 
Democratic politicians, however, for the two men approved by the Star 
were two of the Democrats most likely to be elected, and otherwise the 
paper was working for the election of a Republican mayor and a Repub- 
lican majority in the Council. 

The turning point in the contest was reached one day when T. J. 
Pendergast and Joe Shannon came face to face in one of their rare meet- 
ings on a downtown street. This chance meeting of the bosses occurred 
October 15, 1925. That was two days after the primary in which the 
Jaudon group, the ticket backed by Pendergast and Welch, triumphed 
over the Shannon candidates for the right to meet the Republicans 10 
the city election, November 3. Tom and Joe had a large curbstone audi- 


ence, which included George K, Wallace, a Star reporter who had grown 
prematurely gray covering the shenanigans of politicians. Another wit- 
ness, and one who had a closer view than he relished at the time, was 
George- Hamilton Combs, Jr. Mr. Combs is now a news analyst and 
commentator for radio station WHN, New York. In 1925 he was a rising 
young lawyer in Kansas City with an ambition to sit in Congress. He 
served a term in the Seventieth Congress, 1927-29, but on October 15, 
1925, it appeared that he had put an end to his political career when he 
attempted to serve as a peacemaker between the Goats and Rabbits. 

The city primary contest had left more bad blood and neither Tom nor 
Joe would make the first move toward patching up the new dispute. 
"They avoided each other with studied Celtic blandness and it looked 
as if the party would be split wide open again," said Mr. Combs, recall- 
ing the incident some twenty years later. His memory of that occasion 
was made doubly vivid by the explosiveness of Tom Pendergast. 

"During this period," Mr. Combs related, "I was informed that Mr. 
Pendergast was incensed over what he regarded as my personal attacks 
on him during the campaign. Aside from the reference to him as not 
big enough to dominate the party, I had made no such assault and felt 
badly about the misunderstanding because both of these Irishmen were 
the sort to command a good deal of affection (as well as respect!) and 
Tom had been generous to me in the past." 

So Mr. Combs attempted to clear up the matter when he encountered 
Mr. Pendergast on Walnut Street, and Mr. Pendergast immediately 
launched into a tirade. It was going full blast when Joe Shannon strolled 
along and horned in on the argument, which attained greater velocity 
when Shannon justified the Rabbit criticism of Pendergast with the 
explanation: "You were trying to grab all the jobs." 

"There the issue was joined," Mr. Combs continued, "with Joe hardly 
looking at either of us and Tom shaking an angry finger at both of us 

Time passed, the crowd grew in size, Mr. Shannon and Mr. Combs 
grew unhappier and unhappier, and a Star cameraman appeared and 
focused his camera without interrupting the Pendergast lecture. Finally 
the camera snapped and the Star got a picture of Tom brandishing his 
index finger under Mr. Com&s's nose as he declared he- didn't know 


whether his people would ever again be for any of the Rabbit people. 
Or the phrase was, as Reporter Wallace reported it, "I don't give a damn 
what you do." 

However, the outburst resulted in Tom and Joe's getting together, 
"either the next day, or the day after," according to George Combs. He 
should know, for their reconciliation after this highly satisfactory blow- 
off resulted, for one thing, in their handing him the nomination for 
Congress in 1926. 

Pendergast's browbeating of his old rival figured decisively in his 
rise to power for the Rabbit votes were needed to save the day for the 
Democrats in the city election that followed less than three weeks after 
the exciting scene on Walnut Street. 

Political control of Kansas City for the next thirteen years was decided 
November 3, 1925, by fewer than two hundred votes. The all-important 
margin was registered in the case of George L. Goldman, whose election 
in the most closely contested Council race gave the Democrats a five-to- 
four majority in the new governing body. His majority was 304, so a shift 
of 153 votes would have given the majority to the group headed by Beach, 
who was re-elected mayor by a majority of only 534 votes. 

As the full implications of five-to-four dawned on Pendergast's oppo- 
nents, they attempted to forestall disaster by contesting the Goldman 
election, making the usual election theft charges. The Democrats check- 
mated them by going to the Supreme Court with a mandamus action 
compelling the Election Board to certify the returns showing that Gold- 
man had been duly and properly elected, 

A few days after the election, Pendergast and the other Democratic 
leaders met in Banker Kemper's office to decide on the man for city man- 
ager. Their choice was Henry F. McElroy, the businessman who had 
done such good work in eliminating Bulgerism from the County Court. 

When the new city government was inaugurated in April of the 
following year, City Manager McElroy bluntly put an end to the non- 
partisan nonsense. His would be a Democratic administration,, he an- 
nounced. No one would be in doubt where the responsibility rested, he 
said. Aud no one would fail to know who held the power. 

The scientific administration that began on this April day in 1926 


showed Walter Matscheck and his college-trained experts many things 
that weren't taught in schools. 


HENRY F. MCLROY represented the final flowering o the idea that what 
government needed was a businessman to run it. In selecting him for city 
manager under the new nonpartisan charter for the unicameral form of 
municipal government. Boss Tom Pendergast impressed the Real Estate 
Board and the Chamber of Commerce with his fundamental soundness 
for Mr. McElroy was the practical man par excellence, a self-made suc- 
cessful citizen and the one-hundred-per-cent type of common-sense 
American. The only real dissent came from the circle represented by 
Walter Matscheck and the Kansas City Civic Research Institute, who felt 
that the Council should go outside the city and import an administrator 
who had some academic background and professional standing in the 
f new science of government. Their suggestions were not well received for 
they irritated local pride and violated the long-cultivated notion that 
success in running a -store, a poultry house or a real estate office uniquely 
qualified a man to manage the public's affairs. 

Kansas City had elected numerous businessmen mayors in the past 
without producing startling confirmation for the theory that they were 
handier at this trade than politicians or bureaucrats. However, it was felt 
that this did not constitute a fair test, for the mayors were so hedged in 
by politicians that they had little chance to introduce the efficiency, dis- 
cipline and economy that prevailed in their own private enterprises. 
Conditions established by the new charter were believed to be ideal for a 
full-scale demonstration of the businessman's genius for government. 
And Henry McElroy seemed to be the ideal man for the task from both 
the commercial and political points of view. Bankers, real estate men and 
merchants knew him as a shrewd and hard-headed operator, a man who 
had started from scratch, understood the value of a dollar and made a 
pile. Boss Pendergast knew him as a thoroughly dependable disciple of 
Tom Pendergast. 

The new administration began with the introduction of the celebrated 

i2 4 TOM'S TOWN 

McElroy Country Bookkeeping system, which had 'been developed by 
the City Manager in the days when he was a storekeeper in Iowa and a 
real estate dealer in Kansas City, and which gave the taxpayers the giddy 
feeling that they belonged to a solvent concern while at the same time 
they supported the machine politicians in unaccustomed style. With a 
few swings of his pencil,- McElroy cut in half a five-million-dollar defi- 
cit left over from the previous administration' and announced he would 
order a slight tax increase to wipe out the remainder of the deficit. 

"By this plan the city will get out of its embarrassing position without 
the necessity of a $5,000,000 bond issue," the Judge explained. (McElroy 
was fond of his former County Court title of Judge and retained it.) And 
it was done, or at least nobody had the courage to dispute the Judge's 
statement that the city was at last out of the red. 

"It's just a little country bookkeeping/* the Judge remarked. He had 
started his business life in Dunlap, Iowa, and his proudest achievement 
was the accounting method he devised when he was a youth olE seventeen, 
clerking in the store there. He worked out a hog-feeding scheme on the 
side and by the time he was twenty his books showed a surplus of four 
thousand dollars, with which he set up a store of his own. 

City Manager McElroy clowned his budget-balancing act a little for 
the benefit of the boys who knew and admired him as a wit as well as an 
executive, but no one made the mistake of taking the Judge too lightly. 
The bankers and other businessmen were not disturbed by his corny 
humor or by the touch of magic in his computations when it was com- 
bined with the simple arithmetic of honest old Dunlap. The crossroads- 
store high-finance hokum perpetuated the legend of McElroy efficiency 
for more than a decade. It established Judge McElroy as the business- 
man's politician. He played the role vigorously at all times, in big 
matters like the deficit and in little affairs like the case of the whelping 

A woman -who was a breeder of fine dogs had a problem in biology 
and finances which she took to the City Manager. She explained that she 
faced the prospect of a deficit in connection with a female who was sup- 
posed to have a litter. The woman had contracted to sell four of the pups 
before they arrive^, accepting twenty-five dollars down on each pup. 

"Oh 3 you anticipated," McElroy interrupted. 


"I've done worse than that," the woman replied. "I have absconded or 
something. Last Friday my little dog had just one pup a son* I've col- 
lected twenty-five dollars of the purchase price of three nonexistent pups 
and I've spent the money. You see what a fix I'm in. What shall I do?" 

The City Hall's financial wizard thought hard, 

"I'll tell you what/' he said at length. "Issue anticipation notes for each 
pup you owe. Later your little mother will have other sons, maybe. Good 
day, Madame." 

The Country Bookkeeper did considerable anticipating on his own 
account but he was very good at it and no one questioned his financial 
wisdom for a long time except Walter Matscheck, the Civic Research In- 
stitute director. Several months after McElroy took office the Institute re- 
ported in one of its weekly bulletins that the new administration was 
spending the people's money at an unbudgetlike rate. The City Man- 
ager pooh-poohed the analyst's report and wanted to know where the 
hell the Civic Research Institute got the right to butt in on government. 
Mr. Matscheck's answer was a series of bulletins showing a mounting 
deficit. It was then that Judge McElroy showed some of the other con- 
spicuous political talents besides budget-balancing skill. He silenced the 
deficit talk temporarily by forcing the Council to order a tax reduction 
in the face of rising expenses, and that satisfied the businessmen that the 
city had a surplus or high anticipations of one. 

Walter Matscheck issued more disconcerting statistics and the Re- 
publicans took up the issue for campaign purposes. The Country Book- 
keeper stole their thunder by announcing that he was putting up a 
one-thousand-dollar personal check, payable to Mercy Children's Hos- 
pital if and when anyone could prove the existence of a deficit created 
in his administration. Since no one could audit the books without his 
consent, he didn't worry about his thousand dollars and continued 
to get a balance in his own way. When the deficit eventually was estab- 
lished beyond all question it was a figure high in the millions but by that 
time the one-thousand-dollar McElroy check wasn't available for cashing. 

Mr. Matscheck became the most consistent and effective critic of the 
McElroy administration in the first part of its tenure. Although he was 
usually able to figure up some .way of distracting the public's attention 
from the Matscheck findings, McElroy was nettled at his inability to 


silence or ratde the Civic Research Institute man. Walter Matscheck was 
a shining exception among critics. Others who got in the way of the lean, 
turkey-necked, frostbitten man from Iowa found him both ruthless and 

The first important individual to feel the weight of McElroy disfavor 
w^s Dr. E. W. Cavaness, the city health director. The good doctor carried 
his control of municipal health to the point of decreeing what color 
paint should be used on the new nurses* quarters. McElroy favored a 
different color. It was a small issue but enough to get the McElroy dander 
up and he demanded the health director's resignation. Dr. Cavaness held 
out for a while with the support of the medical fraternity but the City 
Manager had made up his mind. In addition to having a poor eye for 
color, Dr. Cavaness neglected to follow McElroy suggestions in filling 
certain hospital' jobs and spending money on contracts. 

Dr. Cavaness and the nonpartisan dream went out together. Under 
the new charter the health director was not answerable to the city man- 
ager but to the Council. With its margin of one vote, the Democratic 
majority made the Council a rubber stamp for its Hired Man. "Five to 
four" became a monotonous refrain at roll call. 

McElroy worked up hardly more than a sweat in eliminating the non- 
partisan health director who had defied him. His main attention was 
reserved for the Republican police and the Republican mayor. The 
Council's Hired Man spent four happy years pre-empting the social and 
ceremonial prerogatives of the mayor,, which were about all that was 
left of that executive's authority and dignity under the new charter. Al- 
though he was immediately eclipsed by the City Manager at the City 
Hall, the Mayor supposedly retained his rights to open the baseball sea- 
son, shake hands, smile and formally open conventions and hand the 
keys to the city to visiting notables. He kept his high silk hat shined and 
his swallow-tail coat pressed but didn't realize how few opportunities he 
would have to wear them until Queen Marie came to town on her barn- 
storming tour in 1926. Then Mayor Beach learned that Judge McElroy 
had made his own arrangements for the official welcome and had to 
^cuffle to win a place in the Queen's carriage for the parade downtown. 
His Honor was th$ victim of an even more grievous slight when Amos 'n 
Andy came to'town for their first visit. The Mayor waited at the City 


Hall to greet the radio blackface team, whose personal appearance was a 
much greater event than the visit of third-rate European royalty. When 
the parade arrived at the City Hall there was the City Manager in the 
first limousine with Amos 'n' Andy. He had gone to the station to meet 
the comedians and taken all the bows on the long ride to the Hall where 
the forlorn mayor waited. 

As Andy eloquently expressed it, Mayor Beach was "regusted" so 
much so that he abandoned political ambition and pined for the day of 
his return to private life. Goaded by the Republican City Central Com- 
mittee to assert himself, the Mayor got a running start on the City Man- 
ager at the opening game of the American Association baseball season in 
1927, racing to the mound with the pitcher's mitt. McElroy glared at 
Mayor Beach but restrained himself and accepted the situation. Donning 
catcher's mask and glove, he squared off to catch the first ball and sig- 
nalled for a fast one right over the plate. Mayor Beach threw a nasty 
curve, the ball bouncing and cracking the Judge on the shin. The crowd 
roared and Catcher McElroy grinned ferociously at Pitcher Beach as he 
rubbed his shin. 

The City Manager appropriated the Mayor's office, assigning Beach to 
an office behind that of the city clerk. He took away the Mayor's motor 
car, which was embarrassing but not as humiliating as it might have 
been if the Mayor had not been able to get another car from the Park 
Board, the one department which he still controlled. Judge McElroy 
elbowed Mayor Beach away from his exclusive position at the head 
table at Chamber of Commerce luncheons. If the Mayor was called on 
to speak, Judge McElroy also had to be invited to say a few well-chosen 
words. At a bridge dedication, the City Manager took the choice spot, 
cutting the pretty blue ribbons at the mythical boundary line between 
North Kansas City and Kansas City proper, while the Mayor rode in the 
rear seat of a motor car far back in the parade. When the new passenger 
station a{ the municipal airport was dedicated, Judge McElroy crowded 
out the Council as well as the Mayor, staging the whole show for the 
city, himself. There was, perhaps, a certain appropriateness in his mo- 
nopolizing of the various dedication ceremonies since he represented the 
guiding spirit in {he expansive projects requiring tfye presence of an 
dfficial dignitary. Kansas City was a-booming at this timeand there was 


no greater booster in the movement than the big man to whom Judge 
McElroy reported each Sunday at his mansion on Ward Parkway. 
McElroy saw to it that credit due Uncle Tom was not appropriated by 
Republican stuffed shirts. 

When the time for another election rolled around, after four years of 
undiluted partisanship. Judge McElroy was just getting warmed up. 
There-was some grumbling against him in the ranks of his own party 
and much loud Republican talk about McElroyism but absolutely no 
prospect that the Country Bookkeeper from Dunlap would be retired. 
Tom Pendergast was completely satisfied, as he should have been. McEl- 
roy was hiding a deficit, as Walter Matscheck reported, but the city's 
credit rated high with bankers and the government managed to meet cur- 
rent obligations each month. Contracts for public works and supplies 
went to politically favored concerns. Pendergast's Ready-Mixed Concrete 
had a monopoly and the prices paid were those fixed by the paving com- 
bine, but McElroy diverted public attention from this gouge with his 
ballyhoo about the good quality of the materials purchased under the 
political system. The merit system provided for in the charter was ig- 
nored in the employment of personnel but Judge McElroy was able to 
persuade the big taxpayers that the partisan jobholders were giving satis- ' 
faction on a low wage basis. 

The administration exhibited rare skill in promoting and ballyhooing 
services that made the maximum impression on the public. It concen- 
trated its effort on making a showing in garbage collection, fire protec- 
tion, street maintenance, band concerts and budget balancing, and 
coipbined these with a few spectacular expansion projects. These last 
included the building of a municipal airport and the purchase of two 
toll-free bridges over the Missouri, which unquestionably were profit- 
able undertakings for the general public as well as the private interests 
concerned. The political effectiveness of this course was demonstrated 
in the McElroy efficiency reputation. Among other things, it drew the 
praise of the Star, which said editorially in 1930: 

"For the last four years, with all its faults and failures, Kansas City 
probably has had the most efficient city government in its history." 

The Judge's greatest achievement probably was the winning of that 
indorsement from the old champion of the nonpartisan movement and 


the G.O.P. The Star was disturbed by the "intrusion of politics/' as the 
editorial phrased it, but not unduly alarmed, for the extent of the city 
government's deterioration was not yet apparent. 

The 'Star at this time was just getting well started on a new phase of 
its life, with the Nelson ownership finally at an erid. For the last four 
years the new managers of the paper had been somewhat preoccupied 
with reorganization problems of their own and with litigation growing 
out of purchase of the paper from the Nelson estate. Following the death 
of Nelson's daughter, Laura Nelson Kirkwood, in 1926, the paper was 
put up for sale under the terms of the Nelson trust which provided that 
the Star be disposed of through competitive bidding, with three trustees- 
being given fairly wide latitude in selecting the best bid. They accepted 
the bid of eleven million dollars, submitted by a stock company that was. 
formed by a group of Star editors and advertising executives and limited 
to officers and employees of the paper. Walter S. Dickey, publisher of the 
Journal and Post, challenged the sale in the courts, contending he had 
submitted a higher bid, but the United States Supreme Court upheld the 
sale to the Star group. 

Although all the figures in the new Star command were Nelson men,, 
collectively they lacked the fire and domineering force of old Baron Bill. 
There had been steady moderation in the fighting tone of the paper since 
the death of Nelson. After the sale in 1926, there was a marked increase 
in emphasis on objective reporting in contrast to the angling and color- 
ing which had been so conspicuous in the Nelson news coverage. There 
was, moreover, an obvious effort to give approximately equal space to 
. the arguments of bcteh sides in a political campaign, which was something* 
that would have been unbearably painful to Colonel Nelson. However, 
despite these changes, the Star still was generally recognizable as a Nel- 
son product and any suspicion that its crusading spirit had died was set 
at rest in this period by the paper's vigorous campaign against the* 
Doherty interests in an effort to get a reduction in gas rates, and by its- 
fight on Dr. J. R. Brinkley, the Milford, Kansas, inedical wonder who- 
specialized in rejuvenation and compound operations for prostate trouble. 

The Star's position in the McElroy matter remained a subject of de- 
bate for many years, with many Democrats eventually seeking to give 
the Star the chief credit for the City Manager's popular success. John G^ 

i 3 o TOM'S TOWN 

Madden, a Democratic lawyer who was Pendergast's attorney in his days 
of trouble, gave a forceful presentation of this point of view in the 1940 
campaign, when he said: 

"The Star denies that it supported McElroy and put him into office. 
However, I want to be fair, even to the Kansas City Star. The plain fact 
is that in McElroy and certain of his appointees the Star was deceived. 
The citizens of Kansas City were deceived. I do not challenge the good 
faith of the Star in believing in McElroy, but the Star cannot challenge 
the good faith of the Democratic Party in believing in McElroy. Let us 
confess, which is the fact, that however bitterly we opposed McElroy, we 
were mesmerized into believing that he was a financial genius, and that 
political hypnosis from which we suffered was the product of the praise 
of the Kansas City Star" 

It is apparent from this plaint that Mr. Madden and his fellow Demo- 
crats neglected to read the Star during the last six years of the McElroy 
regime but it is true that the early McElroy appeal kept the Star from 
giving the G.O.P. in 1930 the special assistance which the Republicans 
traditionally had received from the Nelson paper. 

Although the Star's neutrality in 1930 constituted a rare example of 
nonpartisanship in Kansas City, the editors could have had no illusions 
about the future of the nonpartisan cause. There was no Nonpartisan 
ticket in the field in 1930 and very little evidence of interest in the non- 
political principle. It looked as if the movement fostered by Nelson to 
eliminate the party bosses was in the grave with the Baron. 

1908 MAIN 

THE UNOFFICIAL SEAT of government in Kansas City was the Jackson 
Democratic Club at 1908 Main Street, some fifteen blocks south of the 
old red-brick building in Market Square where City Manager McElroy 
held court daily. Since the downtown had moved away from the anti- 
quated City Hall, the new center of municipal authority was more con- 
veniently located to carry on the business of the town. 

The neighborhood in which Tom Pendergast established his last po- 
litical headquarters was a southern extension of the business district, a 


region, of small hotels and restaurants, taverns and stores, wholesale 
houses, machine shops, motor car sales-and-accessory plants and freight 
offices. It was picked for a larger development when the central railroad 
terminal was moved from the West Bottoms to the valley of old O.K. 
Creek in 1914. Colonel Nelson moved his Star Building down this way a 
couple of years before the Union Station was built on the new site. 
Pendergast came along in the mid-twenties, locating his Democratic Club 
on Main Street two blocks from the railroad terminals yards. His offices 
were two blocks south and two blocks west of the Star Building. Close 
to his political club was the plant of his Ready-Mixed Concrete Company 
and his wholesale liquor company, revived after Prohibition's repeal, had 
quarters a few blocks away. The working public rode past his club every 
morning and evening from the South Side to the downtown and North 
Side. Strangers arriving in Kansas City passed 1908 Main Street without 
noticing it, riding streetcars and busses from the station to the down* 
town center. 

The Jackson Democratic Club occupied three rooms on the second 
floor of a two-story yellow-brick building, flanked on the north by a small 
hotel which Pendergast owned. On the first floor were a wholesale linen 
shop and an eatery. You climbed stairs to reach the club, entering a 
large room, arranged like a lodge hall, which was bare of decoration 
except for three pictures on the walls pictures of Woodrow Wilson and 
James A. Reed in unnatural companionship,, and a painting of T. J. Pen- 
dergast, On the left was an anteroom occupied by a line of people pa- 
tiently waiting their turn to go through the doorway of the adjoining 
office. The visitors were interviewed briefly by a tall, gray, weatherbeatea 
man, Captain Elijah Matheus, former steamboat pilot and Pendergast's 
secretary, who escorted each caller into the presence of the club's founder. 

The line moved fast for Pendergast was quick with his answers to his 

"All right, who's next," he called out when the door opened to let one 
caller out and another in. 

A framed cartoon of Alderman Jim Pendergast carrying a ballot box, 
an old caricature from, the Star, looked down on Pendergast as he sat at 
his desk handling the business of the town. The cartoon was the one 
political touch in the office. The whole aspect o the place and the big 

i 3 2 TOM'S TOWN 

man at the desk suggested that this was a business operation rather than 
a political activity. It was, in fact, big business. From this unpretentious 
headquarters Pendergast directed a large, smoothly functioning organ- 
ization of precinct captains, block workers, party leaders and officials, a 
company that worked 365 days of the year. The thoroughness of the 
system was explained once in a few words to a visiting British woman 
member of Parliament, who was curious to see a real American boss in 
the flesh and arranged an interview. She was received by the Goat leader 
in his Ready-Mixed Concrete office and found herself facing a brisk busi- 

"Tell me something of the system of your organization," she said. "Is 
it by the bloc or how?" 

"Yes," replied Tom, with no attempt at humor. "The block system. 
We're organized in every block in the city." 

This visiting member of Parliament, Miss Marjorie Graves, would 
have learned, if she had pressed the Boss for further details, that the 
system combined features of a corporation and a military organization. 
There was one worker for every five voters and the command or inner 
circle includ5Tward leaders, township leaders and a group of business 
and professional men. The organization had an espionage service that 
included thousands of volunteer reporters, ~~-~ 

Mr. Pendergast conducted affairs at 1908 Main in such a manner that 
it only occasionally occurred to the people that this was a very odd way 
to run a democracy. The thing that was mostly said about the Jackson 
Democratic Club manager was that he got things done. A piece of paper 
from him, marked with his distinctive red pencil and containing the brief 
request to add the bearer*s name to the payroll "and oblige," cut 
.through all red tape. Businessmen saw him there as an important execu- 
tive who understood all the practical details of his own enterprises and 
.got to the heart of their problems with a few direct questions. Small fry 
saw him as the influential citizen who was interested in their affairs the 
big man who had a use for them, the head of an organization that 
operated on a mutual benefit basis. , 

Pendergast's influence in placing deserving workers was not limited 
to public employment. There were numerous companies and individuals 
who acted promptly on a Pendergast recommendation. During periods 


when the Democrats did not control political patronage or when the 
pickings were slim for other reasons, the Goat leader had found his 
connections with private employers of extreme importance in sustain- 
ing his organization. After the Democrats returned to power and his- 
voice became the dominant one in deciding who should get the jobs and 
the favors, T.J. did not abandon his interest in commercial operators 
who were anxious to cultivate good relations with the organization by 
helping out the boys. 

In campaign time the opposition operators drew a lurid picture of the 
Boss as a sinister figure pulling the strings of hidden government, but 
the fact of the matter was that the machine rule wasn't hidden and the 
legend of Pendergast that grew up at 1908 Main Street was quite unlike 
anything in the stock of the old political melodrama. In this time the 
people had become so accustomed to the indequacy of the official govern- 
ment machinery which they had established that they accepted the Pen- 
dergast kind of administration as a normal and even indispensable 
service. The Boss was able to operate openly, without apology, and he 
busied himself making a reputation as a substantial citizen the man 
of property, the good family man, the friend of the masses, the Jacksoniaa 
of large simplicities who hadn't been spoiled by wealth. 

He arose each morning at five o'clock, went direct to 1908 Main or to 
his Ready-Mixed Concrete office, and was occupied until six o'clock in 
the evening. Three mornings each week he sat at his desk at 1908 Main, 
meeting the public. He didn't leave his office for lunch, for he belonged 
to no clubs except his own political society and looked with disdain on 
"resolutin' bodies," as he called the clubs in the businessmen's luncheon 
circuit. A tray containing plain food was sent up to the Boss from the 
little restaurant below his office. In the afternoon Pendergast moved to 
his Ready-Mixed office. As the pressure of political callers became heavier, 
the Goat leader had one of his lieutenants sit in for him at 1908 Main 
three days a week. One of his frequent substitutes was Jim Pendergast^ 
son of brother Mike, who was being trained to take over the Goat scepter/ 

Pendergast seldom left his home at night, except to go to a movie witk 
his children, and usually was in bed by nine o'clock. His main recreation 
was an occasional motor car ride into the country with a friend or a 
member of his family. His favorite ride wound over the' highways 

i 34 TOM'S TOWN 

through the Clay County hills north of Kansas City, a picturesque region 
in which he purchased a large country estate with ample stables and 
pastures for his race horses. 

Pendergast made so many friends through his interviews and services 
at 1908 Main Street that the picture of him in his headquarters was 
spread widely by word of mouth and became familiar to thousands of 
citizens who never saw him outside the newspaper photographs. He 
gave a good account of himself in newspaper interviews. Newspaper- 
men found him both formidable and attractive. His brusqueness 
was a part of his restless energy. He was seldom relaxed. He sat for* 
ward on the edge of his chair when he talked, emphasizing his remarks 
with forceful gestures. He was all business dynamic, plain spoken, 
impatient. This was the impression he made on Geo.rge K. Wallace, 
the Star's Missouri correspondent, who covered the Pendergast assign- 
ment over a long period, including the years when the paper was doing 
its heaviest fighting against the organization. Wallace called often at 
1908 Main, went with Pendergast to state and national conventions, 
talked to him long distance in various cities and even aboard a liner 
at sea, traveled to New York, Chicago and other places for interviews 
in times when things were popping in the Democratic leader's absence. 

To the reporter from the Republican anti-boss newspaper the gruff 
Democratic boss was always accessible and courteous. Newspaper oppo- 
sition was a part of the political game and he didn't mix personalities 
with his business. His attitude was summed up in one of his informal 
remarks to the reporter. 

"Mr. Wallace," he said, "there. are three sides to every question in 
politics your side, my side and the right side." 

Which isn't the statement of an altogether simple man. 

With the growth of his wealth and power, Big Tom was forced to 
deviate somewhat from his simple routine. His wife and children wanted 
to spend some of the new money and the good family man indulged 
them. He was intensely proud -of his family, his wife, their son and two 
daughters, and was gratified af the quiet way in which they conducted 
themselves. They sought no exotic adventures and engaged in none of 
the escapades that were popular with people of their privileged position. 


Outside of exhibiting a delight in display of luxurious possessions, they 
conducted themselves about as modestly as Big Tom himself. He spent 
$175,000 to purchase and furnish an ornate home on Kansas City's fash- 
ionable Ward Parkway. He bought flashy sports roadsters for his older 
daughter and son, and lavished silks, furs and diamonds on his wife. He 
also dressed himself more smartly, for he always had a strong taste for 
style. He favored blue and gray tailor-made ensembles, picked nobby 
hats and was fond of wearing spats. 

Tom's sartorial improvement drew statewide attention when he blos- 
somed forth in top hat and cutaway at his older daughter's wedding in 
1929. Miss Marceline Pendergast was spliced to a prominent local butch- 
er's son, W. E. Burnett, Jr., with all the proper trimmings and with T. J. 
holding the spotlight. He posed jauntily beside the bride in the wedding 
picture, which was a political mistake. The Republicans made five thou- 
sand prints of the photograph of Tom in his elegant getup and scattered 
them over the state in the following election campaign. It was more effec- 
tive than a cartoon, for Tom's resemblance to a figure from a Nast car- 
toon of a political tycoon was remarkable. The Goat leader quietly 
swallowed his chagrin and thereafter restrained his fashionable inclina- 

The wedding incident was preceded by an equally spectacular exhibi- 
tion of the Pendergasts' pleasure in rich adornment. Several weeks earlier 
robbers had broken into the home and made off with jewels, furs and 
other articles of personal attire valued at $150,000. The loot included 
numerous baubles ranging in value from $1,100 to $13,750 and 480 pairs 
of silk stockings that had been assembled for the trousseau of the bride- 

The family used their surplus for other of the customary pleasures of 
the leisured class. One of their favorite pastimes was travel, and their 
greatest adventure was a trip abroad with Tom in the summer of 1927* 
They made the Grand Tour. The Kansas City boss enjoyed all of the 
journey except the passage from London to Paris, which was made by 
plane. "Flying is not what it is cracked up to be," he remarked upon 
his return. Pendergast kept his followers informed of his progress abroad 
by postcards. One of his missives which has been preserved sheds inter- 
esting light on the sentimental quality of this famous tourist and his re- 


lationship to the boys back home. Dated Hotel de I'Univers, Tours, 
France, and addressed to "all members" at 1908 Main, it read: 

As it is impossible to write to all members, I am taking this means of letting 
you all know that I think of all at some time or other on my trip, and I can 
truthfully subscribe to the old adage, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." 

My family and I are having a wonderful time. We have all enjoyed the best 
of health and have toured through England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and 
found the rural parts very lovely; the cities not so good, with the exception of 
London, which is very large and very busy; traffic about as congested as New 
York, but not as well regulated. 

We flew to Paris from London. I do not think I would do it again. The 
noise from the engines was deafening and our ears rang for twenty-four hours 

Paris is truly a wonder city. We spent eight days there and were treated 
with every consideration by all. I found no evidence of bitterness or price 

When he returned ^ to Kansas City after an absence of about three 
months, Pendergast was received in the manner of an oriental potentate 
coining back to his realm. Crowds gathered at the Union Station to greet 
him and followed him to 1908 Main Street. His office was stacked with 
baskets of cut flowers and the boss spent several hours meeting well- 
wishers, shaking hands, answering questions, until he grew weary and 
Went home to rest only to return in the evening for more flattering treat- 
ment. Touched by the demonstration of devotion and cheered by first 
reports on the situation at home in his absence, he remarked: 

"A reporter met me on the ship in New York and told me of the awful 
state of aF airs out here. He did not scare me one bit. I told him I would 
bet any odds he liked to name it was just the outs trying to put ignominy 
upon the ins, and that I had played that game myself many a time. I get 
home and find things fine." 

Mr. Pendergast thereupon delivered one of his longest public state- 
ments, and one that contained his most cogent expression of his political 
and business philosophy. \ 

"The New York reporters told me there was a paving combine here in 
Kansas City," he said. "I told them if there was it was twenty-five years 
old and no Democratic invention. They know that as well as we do, 

<e Another bunch howled because I have my name on Ready-Mixed 


Concrete wagons. So I have. I live here, am in business here, own prop- 
erty here, pay all my taxes here. Does any man say I have not a right to 
try to make a living here? My business right now is selling Ready-Mixed 
Concrete. I am selling all of it I can to anybody I can induce to buy it, 
and in that particular I am exactly like the maker of sewer pipe, or vitri- 
fied brick, or tiling or any other material. They all hustle for business. 

"Let me say something: If everybody would hustle for business like I 
do and others who compete with me do, this would be a livelier town 
than it is. I am for more and better and bigger business, from Ready- 
Mixed Concrete to ice cream cones. 

"Everything honest and legitimate goes with business or politics," 
he concluded. 

Pendergast's capacities as a businessman had been shown from the 
beginning but for a long time were not widely recognized outside his 
intimate circle because of his inclination to run things from a quiet nook 
in the background and because his renown as a politician diverted public 
attention from his other activities. As a young man, he was marked as a 
comer in business as well as politics when he and Cas Welch, his personal 
friend and factional rival, joined forces to form a messenger-boy mo- 
nopoly, merging the Hasty, Hurry and Speedy services into an enterprise 
that eliminated rivals through the combined brawn of Tom and Cas. 
In'his days as a saloonkeeper, Tom had three saloons on Twelfth Street 
at various times and quickly branched into the wholesale liquor line, be- 
coming president of the company which he operated until shortly before 
Prohibition. When he sold out he had the foresight to make a large in- 
vestment in warehouse receipts and was in position to cash in with 
bonded stuff after repeal. After selling his liquor interests he organized 
a distributing company that handled nonalcoholic beverages. He had a 
hand in the insurance business and teamed up with his friend and po- 
litical shadow, Emmet O'Malley, in a cigar 'company, serving as vice- , 
president. ^ ~ T ' 

"~"&3terMr. Pendergast took over the Ready-Mixed Concrete operation, 
the Kansas City paving combine faced only one serious challenge from 
an outsider. A Tulsa, Oklahoma, contractor by the name of Carl Pleasant 
tried to horn in, with unpleasant results for himself. The Tulsa con- 
tractor was a Jayhawker by birth, a former football star at the University 


achievement was somewhat chilled by the fact that they got outside 
financial interests to exploit their product. And then Mr. Overly's 
sensitive nostrils brought complaints which compelled the city health 
director to hold hearings. Finally the company announced it was moving 
its plant to Trenton, New Jersey, so it could do business without expen- 
sive litigation. The incident provoked a brief flurry of interest and was 
forgotten until it was recalled by the vast wartime expansion in the syn- 
thetic rubber industry, when it was found that Thiokol was booming 
on government contracts. 

The Republicans, of course, attempted to make some political capital 
of the Pleasant and Thiokol incidents and Pendergast's Ready-Mixed was 
one of their principal talking points in the campaigns of 1930. Their 
efforts, alas, did not make a great impression on the public, which could 
see that Tom Pendergast was not alone in the monopoly game and was 
made cynical by the Democratic propaganda that the Republicans 
were sore only because they were on the outside looking in. The citizens 
talked and thought less about the ruthlessness of Pendergast's methods 
than they did about the size of his take. His profits from his part in 
the concrete monopoly were estimated at five. Jiuudr^d. _ thousand 
dollars in a good year, twojmndred thousand* 3ollar&irL a lean one. That 
kind" of money 'demanded and got respect for a man, in the society 
of hustlers. 

Mayor Beach injected Pendergast's business interests into the 1930 
campaign by propounding six questions to the City Manager, asking 
him to reveal the amount of business done with Pendergast concerns 
and suggesting that he comment on the propriety of such traffic with 
the leader of the party controlling the city government. 

The humorist who occupied the city manager's office replied that 
all the work had been done according to plans and specifications. The 
Mayor continued his agitation until he irritated the county attorney > 
James R. Page, a member of the Pendergast faction, who demanded 
that Beach put up the evidence for his charges and insinuations, or 
shut up. 

A county grand jury, which was meeting at this time, decided that 
it ought to take some notice of the paving issue. It took a quick look 
and dropped the matter with the announcement that neither the Mayor 


nor the Prosecutor offered any evidence which warranted further in- 
vestigation. Moreover, the report said, the jury felt that the inquiry into 
Mr. Pendergast's affairs had "a distinct political aspect and as such would 
jeopardize the dignity of this court." 

The Goat rhetoricians could always be counted on for a laugh. 


HOME RULE had a good democratic sound but after a few years' experi- 
ence with the new Democratic administration it suggested only Mc- 
Elroy-Pendergast oppression to Republicans and Nonpartisans. Home 
Rule actually meant substitution of local control for state authority 
over the Police Board. Republicans and Nonpartisans had taken the 
lead in agitation for this measure of autonomy in earlier days when the 
state administrations were consistently dominated by the Democratic 
Party. The Pendergast Democrats were satisfied with the arrange- 
ment that placed the appointive power over the board in' the governor's 
hands until the Republicans began electing Missouri governors and 
legislatures. Then the positions of the rival politicians on the Home 
Rule question naturally were reversed. 

The new city charter did not change the status of the Police and 
Election boards. Republican direction of the Police Department re- 
mained the one missing link in the machine chain and so long as 
there was a Republican governor in Jefferson City there appeared to 
be no prospect of a change in the Kansas City police power. However, 
the Republicans had no feeling of security in this situation, arid City 
Manager McElroy added immeasurably to their alarm with his measures 
in reviving the Home Rule agitation. His offensive was a double-bar- 
relled affair, consisting of elaborate harassment of the Republican police 
together with defiance of the law under which the department oper- 
ated, combined with a movement in the Legislature to substitute a 
McElroy-written law for the old police statute. 

In. an effort to hold their last line against 'Pendergast in the city, 
the GXXP. leaders wrestled desperately with the dual problem of in- 
creasing crime and police inefficiency, A series of reform police chiefs 


were introduced, each being rapidly eliminated by political interference 
and new explosions from the underworld. The contest reached its height 
with the coming of Major John L. Miles, the crusading peace officer 
from old Independence. His appointment grew out of agitation led 
by the Star, which temporarily impressed the G.O.P. politicians that 
they must relax partisan management of the police in order to meet 
the emergency created by the crime situation and the Democratic attack 
on the department. 

Major Miles served in the First World War as commanding officer 
of 'Battery A of the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Field Artillery. 
One of his brother officers was Harry S. Truman, captain of Battery D 
in the same regiment. They were old friends. When they returned from 
the war both entered politics at about the same time. Miles as a Republi- 
can and Truman as a Democrat, with the backing of American Legion 
members, veterans of the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth who went 
through the fire in France with Miles and Truman. That group of 
Jackson County men formed loyalties while they were in uniform that 
transcended party interest and had important consequences for both 
Jackson County and the nation: Harry Truman scratched the Demo- 
cratic ticket for the only known time in his career in order to vote 
for Miles when he first ran for office. 

Major Miles, like Truman, came from solid Jackson County stock. 
A son of the soil, product of a long line of Fundamentalists, he mani- 
fested a reformist zeal that was perhaps stronger than his political am- 
bitions. He was elected county marshal in 1920 when he was the rural 
champion in the crusade headed by Governor Arthur M. Hyde and 
the Star. Four years later, when the office of county marshal was abol- 
ished, Miles was elected sheriff in the same campaign that brought 
Truman his first and only political reversal. That was the election in 
which Shannon and Bulger bolted the party and the future President,, 
who was running for re-election to the County Court, went down with 
the rest of the Democratic ticket. 

As marshal and sheriff, Miles did as much as one man possibly could, 
do to keep the automobile from bringing the city's vices to the country. 

The magnitude of the Miles undertaking in Kansas City was ob- 
served arid neatly summarized by a neutral reporter, a young English- 


man who came to town in the summer of -192^0 make a polite survey 
of the state of civilization in the Heart of America. The visitor was 
Alfred P. Perry of London, a guest on the staff of the Star. He was a 
junior fellow of the Walter Hines Page Fellowship in journalism, a 
hopeful enterprise designed to promote Anglo-American understand- 
ing and world peace. Mr. Perry composed a couple of pieces on the 
hopelessly complicated international problem and thereafter devoted 
his attention to more interesting subjects, such as the races at Pender- 
gast's Riverside Park, the new skyscrapers, motor cars, luxurious hotel 
accommodations, the Kansas wheat crop and the shows on Twelfth 
Street. The two aspects of the Kansas City picture that impressed him 
most were the beauty of the newer residential districts and the crime 

After a tour of the Country Club district on the South Side, the 
man from London concluded he was in one of the world's garden 
spots. Then he turned to the North Side, passing block after block of 
dingy business buildings and slum dwellings on the way to the City 
Hall and police headquarters, where he interviewed Chief Miles, ex- 
amined records and took notes for a well-mannered little essay on crime. 
/"Last year eighty-nine persons were murdered in this city," he wrote. 
^'During those twelve months three murderers were sentenced to be 
hanged, four were sentenced to life imprisonment and six were given 
terms which averaged fourteen years each. In England, with a pop- 
ulation more than eighty times as great, seventeen persons were mur- 
dered in the same length of time. Of the murderers, thirteen were 
hanged and four were sent to penal servitude for life; two cases remained 
Unsolved at the end of the year. 

"In 1927 Kansas City outdid Chicago with a murder rate of sixteen 
for each 100,000 population, compared with 13.3 for the latter city; and 
jtast year holdups totaled 1,178 and burglaries 1,142, or an average of 
more than sevenjrrimes a day, 

"Such a record scarcely can be described as flattering. Although it 
would be unjust to attribute this condition of affairs solely to police 
inefficiency, I gained the impression a disproportionate amount of time 
and energy was being expended on the pursuit of petty misdemeanors 
to the detriment of the more serious duties of public safety. 


"It is an error to which all police are liable," the British reporter 
tactfully concluded, "and one from which the London department is 
by no means exempt." 

Mr. Perry of London unwittingly picked up one of the main argu- 
ments of the new Home Rule advocates with his statement that "a 
disproportionate amount of time and energy was being expended on 
the pursuit of petty misdemeanors." The "petty misdemeanors" were 
liquor and gambling violations and Chief Miles's concentration on 
these infractions violated the major premise of the machine govern- 
ment's theory of crime control. The Home Rule Utopians had a beauti- 
fully simple theory designed to solve the whole crime problem. They 
envisaged an orderly and happy society in which gamblers flourished, 
speakeasies and night clubs thrived, bootleggers and rumrunners kept 
their appointments without fear of interruption, while bandits, hi-j ackers, 
burglars, thieves and murderers were suppressed. The reasoning behind 
this philosophy was that the liquor and gambling industries would 
operate under any circumstances, and it was better to have them reg- 
ulated by responsible people under the eye of government than to have 
them conducted by enemies of constituted authority. Further, it was 
felt that if these petty misdemeanors were overlooked, the vice traffic 
would absorb the principal energies of the people who customarily get 
into trouble and thus would reduce the opportunity and incentive for 
the rough stuff like bank holdups. In return for the co-operation from 
government, the gambling and syndicate owners would work to dis- 
courage and discipline the more rambunctious spirits of the night and 
the police would thus have full time to concentrate on traffic, robbery 
and homicide regulation. 

Some critics of the Home Rule theory -could see the merit of the 
argument that means must be found to make the law square with the 
prevailing social habits of the city but didn't think that nullification 
of the law was the way to go about it. Only a change in the form of 
the law and progress in social education could bring about sane reg- 
ulation of the liquor and gambling traffic. The notion that divekeepers 
could be induced to co-operate in discouraging major crime, or that 
they would be able to do anything iri that direction even if they were 
so minded, seemed childish to anyone who looked at the daily report 


of bank failures and bank lootings, car thefts, filling station and theater 
robberies, hi-jackings, stink bomb thro wings, dynamitings, window 
breakings and arson racket operations. None the less, this theory was 
seriously entertained by a considerable number of individuals in places 
of political power and by a much larger number of simple citizens, 
most of whom honestly wanted to see a more sensible and decent order 
of affairs. 

Even if he had been inclined to look tolerantly on gambling and 
boozing, Chief Miles could not have classed these misdemeanors as 
petty, for any honest police officer could see that the gambling and 
liquor rackets were the main supports of the crime industry, and the 
whole underworld gravitated around the speakeasy and the gambling 
dive. The pay-off from the games and joints was the main source of 
, political corruption for official protection. 

Chief Miles was not dismayed by the size of his task and indeed he 
was so successful in his efforts to enforce respect for Prohibition and 
antigambling laws that he produced a revolt on Twelfth Street and 
in other centers of liberal sentiment. The Chief did not give all of his 
time to suppressing petty misdemeanors, although at times it seemed 
that he was devoting twenty-four hours a day to this uplift. He was 
an intelligent and capable police officer, who brought both military 
discipline and a stern moral code to the department. He set about 
modernizing his organization, following some of the suggestions made 
by a police expert who was imported to make a survey of the Kansas 
City system. Many technical improvements in the department were 
introduced and some civil service standards were set up for the employ- 
ment and training of officers. 

It was true, however, that the Chief took more pleasure in raiding 
than in his other work, and his actions in personally leading the raiding 
squad marked him as a grandstander, exposing him to popular de- 
rision and making him vulnerable to the charge that he spent too much 
time on small-time outlawry. His sad experience in this field of en- 
deavor was illustrated by his marathon contest with the East Side 
Musicians Club, a Twelfth Street institution maintained by a company 
of distinctive Negro boogie-woogie and jazz artists. Miles, who had no 
appreciation for true Jackson County rhythm, insisted that the band- 


men's clubhouse was a gambling establishment rather than a musical 
hall and nightly sent out his raiding squad to break up the entertain- 
ment. His men made hundreds of arrests but failed to obtain evidence 
that resulted in one conviction. After the ninety-seventh raid the musi- 
cians' president. Doc Fojo, announced plans to serenade the police on 
their one hundredth raid, offering to play for the Chief a special ar- 
rangement of "I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby." 

By this time Chief Miles had had a number of other experiences that 
convinced him the Kansas Citians would never attain his Independence 
standard of virtue. Among other things, he found that a petition was 
being circulated, under the direction of the Democratic opposition, ask- 
ing for his removal as an oppressive official. 

City Manager McElroy put his heart into the business of baiting Miles, 
and he found that the flexible nonpartisan charter gave him consider- 
able power to interfere with and embarrass the police while he was 
waiting for the turn of events that would bring complete Democratic 
control. He began by objecting to the size of the police budget, arbi- 
trarily refusing to pay certain expense bills of Chief Miles and other 
items. He held up the wages of policemen for months at a time, upset 
the police benefit fund and otherwise demoralized the department. He 
made an issue over a bill for fifteen dollars for flowers for a slain officer 
and staged a hammy comedy act over a clothes cleaning bill for the 
police. To one touching plea for money needed to pay the police wages, 
he replied with a letter advising that the officers be fed castor oil. 

The Police Board went to the courts in a mandamus action to com- 
pel the city to accept their budget estimates and release the needed funds. 
McElroy forced the litigation into a long series of hearings before a 
commissioner of the court. These hearings were carried to four dif- 
ferent cities to collect testimony showing how towns of like size han- 
dled the budget matter. This became known as the See America First 
Tour, cost the city about fifty thousand dollars, and produced noth- 
ing much of importance except some wry entertainment for the 
taxpayers. High point of the hearings was a debate over the question 
1 of whether the court could consider population figures taken from the, 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, counsel for the police objecting because 
the Encyclopaedia was a British work dedicated to King George V and 


the authors could not be produced in court to verify their statements. 
After this frivolous performance had been carried to the point where 
everybody was bored with the whole business, the Commissioner found 
against the Police Board but he was overruled by the State Supreme 
Court, which held that the board had the right to fix its own budget. 
However, the City Manager was not long depressed by that reversal, 

McElroy and the police commissioners were in the midst of this fight 
over the budget when the underworld undertook an operation which 
called national attention to the fact that the Kansas City situation was 
out of hand and impressed everyone that neither the Miles system nor 
the Home Rule theory was adequate to deal with it. This crime was a 
kidnaping, which ftiarked the inception of the extortion racket as a 
national menace and which had a significant relationship to the so-called 
minor lawbreaking which Chief Miles so earnestly tried to break up. 
The kidnapers and torture bandits were a by-product of the illicit 
liquor and gambling traffic, trained for their work in the hi-jacking and 
gangland ride of the beer and alcohol wars under Prohibition. The booze 
and gambling industries produced such rich profits that the bolder ad- 
venturers of the underworld began to prey on the successful traffickers. 
The syndicate operators were particularly vulnerable to this attack be- 
cause of their position outside the law and their adherence to the under- 
world code of silence. 

The ransom gangsters of the Prohibition nightmare were at first 
called tape bandits because of their habit of taping the eyes and mouths 
of their victims. They seized a man, taped and- bound him, tortured 
ahd threatened him with death until he or his friends paid the amount 
demanded for his release. Or they killed him. The tape bandits began 
by kidnaping bootleggers and gamblers. The people who survived these 
ordeals were too frightened or too smart to talk above whispers. Em- 
boldened by their success, the tape bandits turned their attention to 
larger game to wealthy businessmen and their wives and children 
until they were finally suppressed by the G-men of the F.B.I. 

The rise of this sinister business was traced in a series of unsolved 
murders and rumored kidnapings of underworld figures that occurred 
over a period of two years in Kansas City. 

Then came the mo$t ambitious raid of the terrorists, which shattered 


what little was left of the city's peace. Political bickering over the police 
question and McElroyism had reached -f ever point in the city election 
campaign of March, 1930, which the tape bandits chose as a propitious 
time for their big show. It began with an alarm at the home and the 
office of the Kansas City boss. 

T. J. Pendergast was in his office at 1908 Main Street the morning 
of March 18, 1930, when he received a frantic telephone message from 
his wife reporting that their son, Tom, Jr., had been kidnaped. The 
Democratic boss reacted to this stunning announcement with an ex- 
plosiveness that alarmed his associates and paralyzed normal activity 
at 1908 Main. Two men from the North Side were summoned to 
Pendergast's office and arrived in a rush. They were tough and resource- 
ful individuals who knew the characters and the customs of the under- 
world. Showing the strain under which he labored, the Goat leader told 
them of his son's disappearance and gave them just two hours in which 
to return him safely to his family. When these men attempted to explain 
that they knew nothing of the case and that they needed more than 
two hours for their search, Pendergast lost his temper and struck out 
furiously with his fists, knocking down one of the men and slugging 
the other one so hard that he reeled into a door, breaking the glass. 

Well within the two-hour limit, eighteen-year-old Tom, Jr., was found, 
for he had not been kidnaped. He was discovered sitting in his class- 
room at Rockhurst College in Kansas City, unaware of the incident that 
had caused the excitement over him. 

The false alarm had its origin in a mysterious happening at about 
nine-thirty o'clock in the morning, on Ward Parkway, almost in front 
of the Pendergast home. Roy T. Collins, a building contractor, was 
alone in his car approaching War4 Parkway from an intersecting street 
when: he observed what plainly was a holdup and kidnaping. A Pack- 
ard sports roadster, occupied .by one man and driving north toward 
the downtown section, was forced to the curb and stopped by two 
men in a Chrysler coupe. One of the bandits leaped to the running board 
of the Packard, struck the driver over the head with a revolver butt 
or a blackjack, climbed in and took over the wheel, forcing his victim 
to the floor. Then the two cars roared away. 

Two patrolmen A. E. Perrine and Charles Connell were standing 


at the patrol box on the corner near where the kidnaping occurred. 
They were calling their police station and did not see the crime that 
was committed less than half a block away. The one witness, Collins, 
notified the officers o the incident and the police made some quick 
deductions that produced pain and embarrassment for all concerned. 
Because the Pendergast home was so close to the scene of the abduction, 
and because young Tom drove a Packard of the same model (but a dif- 
ferent color) as the one Mr. Collins had seen, the officers figured the 
youth was the victim of either a kidnaping or a college hazing stunt. 
They called on Mrs. Pendergast, produced the scare that upset 1908^ 
Main Street and retired from the case in confusion while Boss Tom 
expressed relief over his son's safety in colorful language describing 
Republican police inefficiency. 

For five days the hold-up on Ward Parkway remained a mystery to 
the police and the general public. Then the Star obtained the details, 
scooping both the newspaper opposition and the authorities. 

This kidnaping was obviously the work of an outside gang although 
there was at least one Kansas City hand in the operation. Some one who 
knew a great deal about Kansas City and Twelfth Street planned the 
crime. All the big-time kidnapings of the 1930*5 were sensational, com- 
bining equal parts of horror and tragedy, but few were quite as orig- 
inal in conception or as expert in direction as the Katz case. The victim 
was the younger of two regionally famous brothers, Ike and Mike Katz, 
owners of a chain of drugstores that grew from a confectionary store 
on old Union Avenue. Their offices were in a building less than .a 
block away from the place on Twelfth Street where ransom negotiations 
for the release of Mike Katz were conducted. 

The setting for the opening scene and the timing were remarkable 
enough, but what followed was even more of a departure from the 
routine crime and it was all carried out with the precision and suspense 
of a well-rehearsed stage play. Michael Katz was seized in his car four 
blocks from his Ward Parkway home shortly before nine-thirty in 
the inorning, while driving on the east side of a well-traveled two- 
lane boulevard lined with the large homes of the best-protected people 
in the towrL An hour or so later, two Twelfth Street figures were drafted 
to play unwilling parts as go-betweens, and the drama shifted to a 


room in a small Twelfth Street hotel in the heart of the business section. 

Benny Portman, gambler and bootlegger, received a telephone call to 
go to Republican First District headquarters on West Twelfth. There 
he was met by an armed stranger who gave him an envelope addressed 
to Louis (Kid) Rose, manager of the Sexton Hotel between Main Street 
and Baltimore Avenue on Twelfth Street. Inside the envelope was a 
note o instructions to Rose and a letter addressed to Ike Katz, which 
contained the ransom demand in Mike Katz's handwriting. Rcise, 
a former pugilist, at first refused to let himself become involved in the 
case but changed his mind after listening twice to a threatening voice 
on the telephone. Ike Katz and two associates hurried to the hotel late 
in the afternoon and soon afterward the telephone rang in a fourth- 
floor room of the Sexton, opening the bidding for the life of Mike Katz. 
It began at twenty-five thousand dollars and continued until three 
o'clock the next afternoon, when the weary negotiators accepted the 
kidnapers' term one hundred thousand dollars or nothing. The gang's 
agent on the telephone lost patience at one stage of the negotiations 
when forty thousand dollars was offered. "Say, keep your forty," the 
muffled voice said, "Well bring him home for nothing." 

After the final terms were arranged, Portman and Rose left the hotel 
with one hundred thousand dollars in bills wrapped in a newspaper. 
They were shadowed to their rendezvous with the kidnapers and 
directed by telephone along the way. Following orders, they stopped 
at another* hotel, the Coates House on Broadway, where they waited 
in the* lobby until Rose was paged for a telephone call at a booth in the 
hotel lobby. That call directed them to old Reservoir Hill, a rugged 
eminence rising above Cliff Drive on the Missouri River bluffs in the 
northeast part of the city. They parked their car on the top of the lonely 
- hill and walked away from it, as instructed. They didn't look back when 
they heard a motor car roar up to their parked machine, pause and 
dash away. When they returned the bundle of bills they had left in 
the front seat of the car was gone. 

Returning to the hotel, Rose and Portman resumed their vigil with 
,two representatives of the Katz family. Three hours passed. The tele- 
phone rang five times in that interval, each time with a report from 


the kidnapers that there had been a delay. At seven-fifteen, when the 
cover of night had descended and the watchers in the hotel had about 
abandoned hope, the final call came in. "All right," said the muffled 
voice. "Go to the Concourse. Your man is waiting there for you now." 

At that moment Mike Katz was sitting on a bench in the colonnade of 
the Concourse, a small park above Cliff Drive in a northeast residential 
district which once had been a fashionable center. His head and face 
were covered by a hood and he sat quietly. He had been instructed not 
to remove his hood for five minutes and he patiently counted off the 
time. No one disturbed him. A street car clattered by and a few motor 
cars rolled past on the boulevard near the colonnade but their drivers did 
not notice the dark figure on the bench. After several minutes Mr. Katz 
lifted the hood from his head but did not stir from his seat in the recess of 
the colonnade. This was his first view in nearly thirty-four hours, dur- 
ing which his eyes had been either taped or covered by a hood while 
he was held a prisoner in two different houses. He still was dazed when 
a motor car roared up with his rescuers and he took his first steps 
as a free man again. 

The people read the details of the Katz experience along with reports 
of the Democratic organization's victory in the election o mayor and 
Council. The election was a spirited affair two G.O.P. workers were 
kidnaped and Republican police officers made off with a Democrat and 
beat him over the head with blackjacks but the election disorders were 
comparatively petty matters. The Democrats made a clean sweep -of 
the city offices by a majority of twenty-five thousand, winning every 
Council seat. Boss Pendergast took two thirds of the patronage and 
3oss Shannon, who had returned to the fold, got one third. Even the 
most optimistic Democrats were surprised at the results but the rejoic- 
ing of the Goats and the Rabbits was cut short in the crisis provoked 
by the Katz kidnaping. For a week or so it appeared that the under- 
world had at last forced a showdown, arousing the leading citizens 
to a revolt against politicians in an effort to correct the system which 
encouraged criminals. 

The businessmen's answer to the challenge of the ransom terrorists 
was delivered at a mass meeting directed by the Chamber of Commerce, 


at which the leading politicians and law enforcement officials sat down 
with the bankers and merchants to frame a rousing declaration of 
war on the underworld. The vigilante spirit of the old committee-of- 
safety days ran high and a rope party might easily have been organized 
if the businessmen had known just who ought to be hanged first. 

Chief speaker at the meeting was James R. Page, the county prose- 
cutor, who rose to oratorical heights. "These are dark days of crime 
and brigandage in Kansas City," said the Prosecutor. "Let public senti- 
ment be aroused." 

Then Mr. Page said a curious thing. "Fd rather have the vote of the 
humblest Republican on earth than all the Democratic bandits out of 
hell," he exclaimed with heat. His remark was greeted with a roar for 
it was plain that he was aiming at a North Side element in the Demo- 
cratic organization with which he had clashed previously. 

"Who is the ally of this organized criminal element in Kansas City?" 
Mr. Page asked. "Who is the Big Shot?" The crowd grew tense, wonder- 
ing if the prosecutor was going to name names. 

"I say the ally is the politician, the crooked lawyer and the professional 
bondsman," he shouted. "And that goes for both political parties." 

The speech thus ended as an indictment of the whole system, and 
while no one could ^question the accuracy and justice of the charge 
that fixers in both parties were guilty of dealing with the criminal, this 
conclusion had a somewhat anticlimactic and chilling effect. It left the 
citizens with a depressing realization of the magnitude of the task 
they faced, and no particular idea of where to begin. 

The Katz case remains to this day a mystery in the files of the Kansas 
City authorities. Chance played a strange part in the brief investigation 
that followed Mr. Katz's release. Two St. Louis criminals were arrested 
when the car in which they were riding was wrecked on a Missouri 
highway and it was learned the car had been purchased in Kansas City 
with some 6f the marked ransom bills. The St. Louis characters had 
an alibi, of course, and were dismissed after Mr. Katz, who said he had 
been blindfolded throughout his imprisonment, was unable to identify 
them. The investigation suffered a further setback through the abrupt 
removal of due stool pigeon on whom the police were depending for 

i 5 2 TOM'S TOWN 

information. His death apparently was not induced by a gangster's 
bullet but by a heart attack resulting from overindulgence in narcotics. 
To satisfy public indignation over this untimely intrusion of fate, the 
chief of detectives was reduced to a patrolman's beat and that unfor- 
tunate scapegoat soon thereafter died, also of a heart attack. 

Last repercussion of the kidnaping was the resignation of Police Chief 
Miles. Bert S. Kimbrell, the member of the Police Board who had 
backed Miles in his unpopular crusading, stepped out with him. The 
Republicans kept control of the police for two more years, but this 
ended the experiment in nonpolitical administration of the department 
and set the stage for thejgrrors of Home Rule. 



WITH A FRESH mandate from the people and its Council majority upped 
from five to four to nine to nothing, the Democratic machine was ready 
to roll in high gear, and roll it did. The new mayor, Bryce B. Smith, 
millionaire bakerman, sounded the keynote more business efficiency. 
The first order of business was the unanimous election of Henry F. 
McElroy for another turn as city manager and Mayor Smith thereafter 
sat back to let the Council's hired man run the show. 

The Council contained several interesting personalities of political 
weight, and the makeup of this body rather accurately reflected the 
composition of the entire machine. Contrary to the notion fostered 'by 
association of ideas, the political machine was not a thing of well- 
synchronized gears but a combination of dissident elements, frequently 
quarreling, often in danger of falling apart and seldom in a state of 
complete harmony. Tom Pendergast got the blame, responsibility or 
credit for everything that happened although many conflicting voices 
and interests went into the shaping of the policy that finally prevailed. 
The man at 1908 Main Street consistently figured in the role of compro- 
miser between hostik forces in the Democratic organization. Without 
his skill as a co-ordinator or governor, he could never have established 
himself as a true machine boss. Only five of the members of the new 


Council belonged to Pendergast's faction, the others being followers of 
Welch and Shannon. The way they all fell into line at Council meet- 
ings was a beautiful example of team play, and the boss of the dominant 
faction had to use other talents besides whip-cracking to produce that 

Pendergast's skill in picking outstanding men in the community for 
public office was almost as famed as his genius for inspiring devotion 
among those he supported. His following included individuals who 
previously had distinguished themselves in other factions or in inde- 
pendent activities. Mayor Smith, for example, first appeared on the polit- 
ical scene with the Rabbits and was identified by the Star as a neutral 
between the factions for some time after he took the mayor's office. 
Councilman Ruby D. Garrett was another who was labeled a neutral at 
the outset of his tenure in 1930. He had tried to crash into the political 
picture as something of an independent in 1920, when he announced 
as a candidate for governor, and again in 1922, when he defied the bosses 
to run the steamroller over his boom for mayor. Both campaigns were 
notable for their brevity and after that Mr. Garrett settled down to the 
routine of law and politics, making himself useful to the organization as 
a campaign orator for other candidates, building up his fences in the 
American Legion, the Chamber of Commerce and other circles. The 
habit of regularity grew on him through the years when he was winning 
Pendergast recognition and during his ten years in the Council he de- 
veloped into one of the organization champions, closing his career with 
a spectacular effort to hold the line against the reform which swept on 
the City Hall in 1939 and 1940. 

The consistency with which Judge McElroy got his way with the 
Council eventually produced a general impression that this body was 
made up entirely of rubber stamps. However, the Republicans were 
rather slow in selling this idea to a majority of the voters. One of the 
reasons for that delay was the fact that the party in power included a few 
conspicuous figures who on occasion made a show of resisting the 
dynamic Country Bookkeeper. In fact, their combined protest attained 
a considerable volume and weight over the years, although it did not 
stop McElroy and his minions. The dean of this unusual company of 

i 54 TOM'S TOWN 

Democratic critics was Councilman A. N. Gossett, described by the Star 
as "the most substantial member of the Council." 

Councilman Gossett, the popular Farmer Al, had a mind and a con- 
science that were alternately useful and disturbing to the machine. He 
was a great vote getter and an indispensable man whenever there was an 
occasion requiring a speech or a resolution that needed classical adorn- 
ment and homespun treatment. Mr. Gossett was a lawyer with a high- 
pay practice and a farmer with rural property that entitled him to 
classification as an agriculturalist. He detested the word and insisted on 
being called a farmer. He was the farmer of the First Ward and the 
farmer of the Kansas City Club, the town's most exclusive retreat for 
self-made men of means, which, in deference to Farmer APs demo- 
cratic simplicity, was always referred to as his humble boardinghouse. 
Farmer Al impressed his rustic informality on his luxurious surround- 
ings, snapped his galluses, rumpled his hair and wore an old hat. He ob- 
jected to the formidable array of knives, forks and spoons which he 
found at his table and dispensed with all the eating gadgets except two 
or three Simple items. "It's my belief," he said, "that all a man needs is 
one knife, one fork, one teaspoon, one book, one wife or sweetheart and 
one million dollars." 

Puffing on his corncob pipe, made from cobs on his own Jackson 
County farm and filled with natural leaf from Kentucky, Farmer Al 
discoursed on beaten biscuits, Greek literature, the solar system and the 
correct way to age Missouri corn liquor. His special brand was aged 
in the wind, in a keg lashed to a tall tree, the wind, rocking it for several 
months and blowing in "a sweetness and substance that Nature alone 
is able to impart." 

When he was a boy of ten, Al Gossett had been given a telescope which 
stimulated a lifelong interest in astronomy and his conversation was in- 
terlarded with observations on the eccentricities of the planets, along 
with Greek and Latin phrases, all combined with Jackson County 
truisms and expressed in pungent Missouri language. He frequently was 
seized by the poetic mood and restrained with difficulty. The Council 
unsuccessfully tried to stop him from delivering an original "Ode to An 
Aerolite" at one of its duller sessions which he sought to enliven. The 
ode was inspired by a twelve-pound chunk from a meteorite which he 



S. J. Ray in The Kansas City Star 

Sympathy, Just Sympathy 

The politician's stellar performance as a front man drew -this tribute from the car- 

toonist in 1940. 


had seen fall on a farm sixty years earlier, and today it is preserved in the 
minutes of a Council meeting. 

O shooting Star! Of old, 

A coruscating flame, 

Now spent and cold. 

An air-stone that blazed 

A fiery path across the skies. 

Darkly dull and glazed, marked by fire, 

Shaped in no design 

Close to my eyes, you lie, 

Heavily within my hands. 

Fragment from distant space, 

Cast-off, expelled, from stranger sphere 

How come? What violative burst 

Of Nature sent you here? 

Was it that some devil, cursed 

With Time and Death, 

Made you thus drear, 

If I had been where you have been, 

What would I be? 

Or, were you by some angel thrown, 

Battling with Michael, or against him, 

In that fight, 

And missing, came twisting, sizzling, 

Down to this light? 

Short was your freedom, 

Brief was your glory, 

Pleased to meet you, hunky dory.* 

Besides serving as the country-cured philosopher, poet arid humorist 
of the city administration, Farmer Al performed useful work as policy 
maker and restrainer of the Country Bookkeeper* He strenuously re- 
sisted McElroy when the City Manager went to the Legislature to lobby 
for his own measure to set up Home Rule in Kansas City. Farmer Al 
publicly declared that turning over control of the police to the home 
people would give the administration dictatorial power that would be 
abused. His objection was based further on the sound point that Re- 
publican responsibility for the police actually was an asset for the Demo- 

* Reprinted by kind permission of Mr. Roy K. Dietrich. 


crats with the crime problem in its current stage of development. If his 
advice had been heeded, the machine might have missed some of the 
worst storms that struck it. 

Councilman Gossett criticized the City Manager for his defense of the 
slot-machine racket in Kansas City. After Home Rule was established, 
and an ouster movement developed against McElroy over his charter vio- 
lations in handling the police, Gossett joined with the Mayor in insisting 
that the leader of this uprising be granted a hearing by the Council. 

He spoke out against the administration on other occasions and once 
or twice it appeared that he might kick over the traces. The conflict 
within him continued to the final showdown on the machine question, 
but then he was too old and too sick to take a hand in the excitement. 
The opposition honored him by not including him among the members 
of the City Council against whom recall petitions were circulated. 

Mayor Bryce B. Smith teamed with Farmer Al in the liberal or uneasy 
wing of the Goat faction. Mayor Smith was the popularity man of the 
organization, the little man loved by the masses, the rich citizen with 
democratic manners and- a heart of gold. He also lent South Side tone 
to the Goats, being socially well placed and a high figure in Rotary. A 
pint-sized man with a boyish sfnile, he wore big hats and puffed on big 
cigars, thought he had the heart of a lion and was always about to assert 
his rights against McElroy and the bad boys of the organization. Judge 
McElroy called him Boss and let him pitch the first ball at the opening 
of the baseball season. 

Garrett, Gossett and Smith illustrated the range of the Goat faction in 
the upper levels of the city's business, social and political life. Contrasts 
were equally well marked among other representatives of the organiza- 
tion in government. One of the more important and interesting mem- 
bers of the Council was Charlie Clark, who upheld the honor of the 
North Side, which was included in the district from which he was elected. 
Clark belonged to the old order with Alderman Jim Pendergast and 
carried its early tradition into the final period under Big Tom. He out- 
shone all the other councilmen in devotion to the machine principle, 
the heroic quality of his service being illustrated by the incident when 
he was carried to a Council meeting on a stretcher, a pneumonia victim, 
to cast the deciding vote on a measure of importance to City Manager 


McElroy. Clark spread the Goat gospel among the rank and file in many 
other ways. He was the expert politician whose accomplishments popu- 
larized the theory that the organization could perform special favors 
for largs interests and small individuals, and serve the general public at 
the same time it inflated the power and glory of the Goat boss. He dis- 
pensed favors, justice and charity during a long career as legislator, 
county assessor, clerk of the criminal court, justice of the peace and coun- 
cilman. The only full-time working member of the City Council, he set 
up a desk in an anteroom of the city clerk's office and kept himself al- 
ways on call. He knew his business, for he was a student of government 
and humanity, and an authority on the statutes and ordinances govern- 
ing the city. 

Councilman Clark was exceedingly useful to the Goats in promoting 
the legend of Pendergast good will and good works among the numerous 
lower order of voters. He was manager and host of the Christmas dinners 
that were given annually by the ruling family for the derelicts of the , 
North Side. These affairs, which were introduced by Alderman Jim 
when the guests numbered less than a hundred or so, were continued 
by Tom in the depression days when thousands were served in a large 
building near Market Square on Main Street. Charlie Clark was at 
home with the drifters and gandies who crowded in to sit at the rows of 
tables. His tousled hair, rumpled clothes and weatherbeaten face would 
have made it easy for a stranger to mistake him for one of the crowd. 
He knew the names of most of the men in the dining hall. "Don't call 
it a charity meal/' he told them. "We are guests here today of Tom 

Blind loyalty like Charlie Clark's was, of course, the outstanding char- 
acteristic of the Pendergast following. This myopic condition was com- 
bined in many cases with the deafness and dumbness which partisanship 
and sycophancy customarily produce. In fact, that devastating complica- 
tion was so widespread that many observers were slow to appreciate the 
fact that the Democratic organization's representatives in government 
included one of the town's most vigorous dissenters, who was not intimi- 
dated by Judge McElroy and could not be restrained by the desire for 
harmony at 1908 Main Street. 

This disturber in the machine was James R. Page, who was elected 


county attorney the same year that McElroy became city manager and 
whose rebelliousness grew at about the same rate as the McElroy despot- 
ism. Page was a product of rural Missouri. Possessing some of the tough 
qualities of the hickory trees on his native Sullivan County acres, he 
proved that he was as good a hand in rough-and-tumble as the former 
Iowa farm boy who ruled the City Hall. Determined to win a reputation 
as a law enforcer and an independent public servant, he established a 
record as a hanging prosecutor and a man who wore nobody's collar 
except during campaign time, when he consistently had the -support of 
Tom Pendergast. 

The criminal cases handled by Page's office included many of the most 
sensational crimes in the city's history and constituted glaring proof that 
the growing slum areas in the industrial community were the breeding 
grounds of an outlaw generation, which found banditry and murder the 
quickest way out of poverty and segregation. Page was not concerned 
with the primary causes of crime but concentrated on its suppression. 
Leniency of the courts in sentencing prisoners, granting continuances 
and approving paroles was regarded by him as a major factor in the 
breakdown of public order and he incensed judges by denouncing their 
parole board as "a crime-forgiving society." He clashed with City Man- 
ager McElroy over police protectioh of the gambling syndicates and 
publicly branded the City Manager as a topi of racketeers. He collided 
head on with one of the principal powers of the Democratic organization^ 
John Lazia, the Big Shot of the North Side. ^ 

Lazia was an Italian-American, a son of immigrants. As a youth he 
had a brief career in banditry, which ended when he was sentenced to the 
Missouri penitentiary for highway robbery* Paroled long before he had 
served out his term, he returned to Kansas City, engaged in the bootleg 
traffic for a while before he emerged as a figure of consequence in poli- 
tics and business. His political organization was the North Side Demo- 
cratic Club, and at the peak of his power he was credited with being able 
to deliver as many as seventy-five hundred votes. His nominal busi- 
ness was a soft-drink manufacturing establishment, selling a line of 
beverages that were favored by the city administration and. concerns 
that wanted to keep in the organization's good graces. Lazia was re- 
puted to have other extensive interests and was recognized as the head 


of the gang that played the dominant part in the liquor and gambling 
rackets and in the night clubs. 

Although Lazia was a personal friend and political ally of Pendergast, 
Prosecutor Page attacked him boldly and with increasing vigor. In one 
campaign he publicly repudiated Lazia's support and got Pendergast to 
back him up on the issue. Page's campaign against the North Side leader 
grew in intensity through six years when he served as prosecutor and 
afterward when he was elected circuit judge with the Boss's assistance. 
He was living proof that a man in the organization could talk up to 
Pendergast or go against the machine's political interests and not be 
destroyed for his show of independence. 

Some opposition orators explained Jim Page as a sham reformer inside 
the organization, whose function was to provide a distraction that would 
discourage a more thorough reform from the outside. If that was a cor- 
rect analysis, then Pendergast permitted Page to go too far with his ex- 
citing performance. The Prosecutor's quarrels with Lazia and McElroy 
at the end of the 1920*5 and opening the 1930'$ were the first rumblings 
within the machine itself of the revolt that was coming. 


THE STORY of Solly Weissman's effort to win recognition as a gambler is 
the longest and perhaps the saddest legend of Twelfth Street. The society 
in the neighborhood of Twelfth Street and Baltimore Avenue, center of 
the gambling community, tried for a long time to ignore Mr. Weissman 
but that was difficult to do, for Solly weighed three hundred pounds and 
was light on his feet. He was Slicey Solly, sometimes called Cutcher- 
Head-Off, the Captain Kidd of Thirteenth Street and the Bully of 
Twelfth Street. He was a bootlegger, an underworld fronter, a strong- 
arm man for politicians. Police also listed him as a hi-j acker, a gem 
robber, and an innovator of the gang ride, among other things, but these 
distinctions he always dismissed with a shrug and a pained expression. 
"Not me, chief," he said. "Not me. My racket's whisky and gambling.'* 
Solly's faith and persistence were sufficiently' large to make him the 
representative figure of the age which believed that America offered 


endless opportunity to every man willing to put some dough on the 
name of a nag or the turn of a card. Neither financial panic, social 
ostracism nor legislative prohibition could suppress or discourage the 
gamblers. For half a century the effort had been made to banish the 
games by outlawing them but throughout that time the habit had grown, 
producing serious social and economic disturbance along with evidence 
that the repressive measures that were tried actually had stimulated the 
growth of the gambling mania. 

The growing economic importance of this industry manifested itself 
in various curious ways in the rise of Solly Weissman until 1930. That 
was the year when the Coolidge-Hoover Prosperity finally reached its 
dismal end in the debris left by Wall Street's Black Thursday of 1929. 
It also brought forth Slicey Solly's most ambitious, and his last, under- 
taking, but it did not end the gambling boom. By ironic coincidence, 
Prosperity and Mr. Weissman went out together at the same time that 
the games in Kansas City were entering their big play. Almost another 
decade passed before the real depression struck Twelfth Street. 

In the beginning of this revival in the early 1920'$, Solly set up a stand 
at Thirteenth and Baltimore as a base of operations and found many 
things to do while looking for gambling opportunities. Police closed his 
dive after three men were shot there, one fatally, but they found no one 
to testify against Weissman or challenge his alibi. A product of the First 
World War period, when all factors combined to bring the underworld 
type of citizen to full flower, Solly's progf ess was traced in police records 
listing hi arrests for everything from vagrancy to investigation for 
murder. One of his earliest exploits was the rolling of a Kansas farmer 
for a few hundred dollars by administering knockout drops. Before long 
he had advanced beyond petty operations and drew wide attention in 
gambling circles when he was reported to have held up a dice game, 
taking nine thousand dollars. His elephantine proportions, his airy man- 
ner, his daring, luck and political connections combined to make him 
a very interesting figure in nighttime circles. His reputation as a fronter 
had firm support in his own record, showing twenty-nine arrests and 
one conviction. The one rap against him, involving a five-hundred-dollar- 
fine, resulted from a sentimental lapse when hp went to the rescue of an 
icebox thief. The pilferer had been captured by his intended victims and 


was being menaced by a street crowd when Solly happened along and 
spirited him away by impersonating a plainclothes officer. 

Solly's soft side was revealed on another occasion when he figured in 
a daytime New Year's duel on a residential street with his erstwhile 
friend, Joe Wagner, the bank bandit. A neighbor wbman in the apart- 
ment where Wagner lived, observing the maneuvering from her front 
porch, pleaded with Solly to abandon the field on humanitarian grounds 
and he solemnly considered her advice, then retreated ponderously down 
an alley. Police were less impressed by the woman's moral power than 
the fact that Solly's tactical position was bad. 

A little later the Captain Kidd of Thirteenth Street took the spotlight 
in the battle attending the mob primary when Miles Bulger was elimi- 
nated from the political arena. Solly's arrest in that riot upset his plan 
to settle his personal feud with Bulger's strongarm department, Swede 
Benson, but .the feud was revived later when the Terrible and Unterrified 
Swede and the Terrible Solly led their playmates to wreck and shoot up 
each other's establishments. Alas, police interrupted that exchange be- 
fore Solly and Swede got a chance to shoot it out. 

With his continued success, Slicey Solly began to polish off the rough 
edges. He dressed in expensively tailored clothes, wore Harold Lloyd 
horn-rimmed glasses that emphasized both the comical and ferocious 
qualities of his fat face, and developed a jolly line of side talk that was 
both amusing and vastly disquieting. He was a man about town, a fa- 
miliar figure in the night spots. He prowled the streets in a sports car 
that was recognized everywhere by its rubber-tired windshield. 

Weissman operated a dive near Convention Hall on Thirteenth Street 
so he could be close at hand for the wrestling shows and other sports 
circuses that were held in the hall. The sports craze of the record-break- 
ing twenties found perhaps its most vigorous expression in Slicey Solly. 
The wrestling shows provided both a source of income for the gamblers 
and a rare entertainment. The clowning of the mat heroes was so good 
that a vast excitement seized the entire crowd in the hall although every- 
one knew that the matches were fixed. Solly also had a large interest in 
that other great popular attraction of the day the dance marathon 
but his attendance at these grotesque exhibitions was prompted less by 
his delight in art than his pecuniary concern in the outcome. He and his 


boys stopped a marathon in Convention Hall in 1928 when a couple they 
were backing to win was eliminated by the judges. The show didn't go 
on until their favorites returned to the floor. A little later the promoters 
of the marathon disappeared, along with the prize money, and it was 
rumored that Solly had taken them for a ride. 

The rumrunniiig, beer and liquor-making enterprises that flourished 
during Prohibition provided many opportunities for an enterprising 
operator like Weissman. He formed connections with gangsters in St 
Paul, Chicago, St. Louis and New York. At one stage of his operations 
he was host in Kansas City to George Remus, the Cincinnati boqze king, 
who was credited with making twenty million dollars from whisky 
piped from government warehouses. Remus came to Kansas City shortly 
after he had been released from an insane asylum, where he was com- 
mitted after escaping the penalty for murdering his wife on a Cincinnati 
street. Twelfth Street buzzed with speculation over the import of his 
visits with Weissman, but there was no known sequel to the meeting 
of this fantastic individual and the equally fantastic Solly Weissman. 

The Weissman ambition to win renown in gambling circles grew 
apace and he was reported to have a hand in a large casino in St. Paul. 
He began to figure in the Kansas City big-time sports when he par- 
ticipated in the financial backing of the dog races that were conducted 
near North Kansas City, a venture in which he was associated with John 
Lazia, the North Side politician. 

But Mr. Weissman was not yet satisfied with the progress he was mak- 
ing. He was still regarded as socially undesirable in the exclusive inner 
circle at Twelfth and Baltimore and he wasn't in the big money. He 
brooded over this until one day late in the third decade of the twentieth 
century, when he got the idea for his greatest promotion, in the gambling 
racket. His plan was to tap a race wire from one of the national syndi- 
cates which carried racing results to the horse book offices where bets 
were plaqed. If he could establish a leak whereby he learned the race 
results thirty seconds or so before they were posted, Weissman would 
make some large money. In order to establish this private service, Solly 
called on a quiet and mild-appearing individual named Charley Haugh- 
ton, who handled the wire for a national syndicate serving horse books 
on Twelfth Street. An old^er and much smaller man than Weissman, 


Haughton bluntly rejected the gangster's suggestion and was unmoved 
when the three-hundred-pound bully tried to intimidate him with threats 
of a beating up and a gang ride. 

Not long after this, Weissman hurriedly left town and it was rumored 
that he wouldn't come back. The police under the direction of Chief 
Miles were making Kansas City uncomfortable for him and so were the 
Federal authorities, who were prosecuting Solly in a liquor conspiracy 
case. Whether his departure had anything to do with his effort to muscle 
in on the gambling operation was never established, but the affair be- 
tween him and Haughton had an explosive sequel when Solly recovered 
from his alarm and decided it was safe to return to Kansas City. 

The conflict between the massive Thirteenth Street bully and the little 
Twelfth Street gambler moved Twelfth Street society to its emotional 
depths. To the sentimental horse players and dice rollers, it was the 
David-and-Goliath classic of the century, Charley Haughton was the 
popular hero for he was not only the little man pitted against a giant, 
he was also the defender of the old order, the mystical fraternity of sports 
who regarded gambling as an honorable and vitally essential occupation 
and labored earnestly to restore the prestige it had enjoyed in Old Town 
in the heyday of Bob Potee. 

Haughton carried the nickname of Hard Luck Charley, a title that he 
earned in his early days after a run of losses resulting from his refusal to 
take a hand in crooked games and sports shows. His fortunes improved 
after he became a figure in the Kansas City horse book business. Hard 
Luck Charley was one of numerous engaging characters who acquired 
affluence and added something to the new legend of noble sportsmanship 
on the street of long hom;s and short odds. Other substantial citizens in 
this society were Harry Brewer, the blind bookie of Twelfth Street, who 
earned a fortune by never making a mathematical mistake or violating 
the code of fair play; Gold Tooth Maxie, the ethical and indestructible 
crap shooter; Johnnie Johnston, the friendly fat man who liked to stand 
on a Twelfth Street corner, smiling at the crowds; Jake Feinberg, who 
was always sweet to the suckers and respected his obligations; and, o 
course, Tom Finnigan, the unofficial mayor of Twelfth Street, who im- 
pressed on everyone that there was nothing higher than a sportsman's 


honor and nothing more picturesque than a turf follower's conversation. 

Tom Pendergast was both trie political and spiritual father of this ad- 
venturous company. He proved the depth of his devotion to the gambler's 
ideal by the size of his bets and the extent of his personal losses while 
supervising developments that brought a vast expansion in chance-taking 
opportunities* He stimulated interest in racing by establishing the habit 
of attending race meets in the East and leading a delegation to the Ken- 
tucky Derby each year, and by acquiring a stable of his own. His friends 
praised his horses and his judgment but learned to beware of his enthusi- 
asms. Only one of his horses was a first-rate animal but Tom regarded 
all of them with enormous pride and affection, and formed the habit 
of honoring local or regional celebrities by naming his steeds after them. 
He named one of his favorites Bo McMillin in honor of the old football 
star who was then coaching at Kansas State College. Pendergast was so 
eloquent on the subject of Bo's merits that he induced the Twelfth Street 
boys to bet everything from the family piano to the washtub on him at 
the Kentucky Derby. The Bo McMillin fiasco was painful and mortify- 
ing to all concerned, but did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Goat boss 
and his followers. 

Pendergast brought horse racing tack to Kansas City, ending the ban- 
ishment that had occurred two decades earlier in the administration of 
Holy Joe Folk. The prohibition was lifted, or tilted, by a liberal-minded 
Supreme Court, which reinterpreted the law to declare that the cer- 
tificate form of betting was legal. Under this construction, a man could 
go to a window at a race track and contribute a certain amount of money 
"to improve the breed of horses/* Sometimes the breed improved unex- 
pectedly fast, in which case he could collect a refund and stay within the 
law. A New Orleans group of sportsmen came to Missouri to test this 
new system, operating a track at Smithville, twenty-three miles north 
of Kansas City. A year later, in 1928, a Kansas City group organized the 
Riverside Park Jockey Club and took over the grounds used by a dog 
track, five miles north of Kansas City. The park was popularly known 
as Pendergast's Track. The Boss's name did not appear among the organ- 
izers but the names of his business associates and close friends were 
prominent in the list. The plant grew into a large establishment with 
many windows for contributions and refunds. It drew crowds which at 


their peak numbered more than seventeen thousand for a single day, 
operating until another reform struck the state in 1937. 

Riverside was the showpiece of the gambling boom that excited the 
avarice of Solly Weissman and led him to undertake the promotion that 
highlighted the hi-jacking and muscling-in movement of this period. 
The gambling operators found that they faced as much interference 
from crooks trying to horn in as they did from reformers who demanded 
their business be suppressed. This double trouble manifested itself when 
Jake Feinberg gave Kansas City its first little Monte Carlo the same year 
that Pendergast's Riverside Track opened. Jake convinced a group of 
backers that the very best people would be glad to lose their money if 
dignified surroundings were provided in a sylvan retreat off one of the 
new highways running out from Kansas City. The result was the Green 
Hills Club. It was closed after a short run owing to the agitation of the 
Presbyterians in Platte County and the overhead costs for "protection." 

The Green Hills project was followed by a more elaborate endeavor, 
Cuban Gardens, a night club and gambling casino on private grounds 
near the Riverside Race Track. Johnny Lazia was the chief figure in this 
operation at the outset. Phil McCrory, long-time business associate of 
Pendergast, advanced him twelve thousand dollars as a first payment in 
assembling funds to build the Gardens. The Ministerial Alliance of 
Liberty, county seat of Clay County, started a campaign against the enter- 
prise and the sheriff asserted he was doing his best to suppress the casino. 
After five raids, he confessed his discouragement. Each time he found no 
evidence of gambling but was charmed by the sight of fashionably 
gowned women and men in evening clothes, dancing to the strains of 
"The Chant of the Ju'ngle" and other current hits played by a large band 
garbed in Spanish costumes. 

It was difficult for an officer or any other intruder to break in on the 
Gardens without warning. Armed guards sat in a small building at the 
motor car entrance, sizing up the customers and admitting only those 
they recognized. Once inside the club, a stranger would not have known 
he was in $ gambling establishment. Well-armed men in evening clothes 
admitted the knowing ones to the anteroom where the play in roulette, 
dice and black jack went on under the eyes of more armed attendants. 

The many diversions for sportive citizens provided daily and nightly 


evidence that gambling was big business and was organized on an effi- 
cient basis, with the operators making the necessary arrangements to 
protect their interests. It was an enterprise that required devices to ob- 
tain official toleration or to discourage crusading representatives o the 
law, along with more forceful measures against raids by crooked gam- 
blers, bandits, rival promoters and extortionists. The obvious inferences 
were drawn by a large number of citizens and there were disturbances 
among ministerial groups and other guardians of civic order, but the 
protest was scattered and ineffectual for some time. The troublemakers 
in the underworld were not so well under control. Individualists like 
Solly Weissman remained a constant threat, and this fact was rudely 
forced on the public's attention by the events of October 28, 1930, when 
Mr. Weissman lumbered off the train from Chicago. 

Solly had returned to settle a couple of matters. First on the list was a 
conspiracy indictment involving him and several others in the operation 
of a beer and alcohol depot in Kansas City. Solly was in high good 
humor when he went to the Federal court to attend the final proceedings 
on this violation of the Prohibition law, for his position had improved 
sensationally in the interval while he was waiting to be called to triaL 
This change had been brought about chiefly by the disappearance of the 
government's star witness, Elmer Hoard. One rumor was that Mr. Hoard 
was under wraps in Chicago, enticed there by a Weissman offer of 
profitable employment. Another was that he was well encased in con- 
crete on the bed of the Missouri River. 

When the case was dismissed for want of evidence, Weissman swag* 
gered from the judicial chambers, bowing, smiling, waving to old ac- 
quaintances and admirers, shaking hands with lawyers, bondsmen and 
other characters who crowed up to congratulate him. Then he went to a 
hotel to confer with a few of his confederates. 

Within a few hours after his return from his exile up North, Slicey 
Solly gave every indication of an intention to remain in town for a long 
period. He picked up where he had left off and set out immediately to 
see little Charley Haughton. He found his man in a second-floor office 
above Rayen's Turf Betting Agency at 1211 Baltimore Avenue. Mr. 
Haughton had served a turn as a peace officer and he was ready when 
the Terrible Solly marched jauntily into the room. It was all over in a 


minute. Arley Rayen ducked for safety as Solly made a lunge toward 
Haughton, who shot once across Rayen's desk. The big hoodlum sank 
to the floor with a bullet in this throat. He was found there alone a little 
later by persons attracted by the shot. 

Charley Haughton voluntarily surrendered and gave a statement to 
the prosecutor before Solly died early in the night. The authorities ex- 
onerated the gray-haired race wire manager and he was showered with 
congratulations from all sides. In the bars, hotels and poolhalls, men 
talked of little Charley Haughton, the giant killer. Twelfth Street cele- 
brated the slaying of Solly Weissman as a victory of the Good Joe's and 
Honest Andrew's over the criminals, but this actually was only a prelude 
to the final underworld invasion. The incident was quickly forgotten 
and the play went on as before while the public agitation over the gam- 
bling revival was submerged in the excitement of another political cam- 
paign which carried TAm Pendergast forward to new power. 


IN THE FALL of 1930, when the first political shocks of the depression 
reverberated across the land, notice was served of the larger r.oles that 
Tom Pendejgast and Jackson County Jeflfersonianism were going to 
play in national affairs for the next decade. The phenomenal increase in 
the voting power of the Kansas Ci^y organization and the election of 
the Honorable Joseph B. Shannon to Congress were important fea- 
tures of a campaign which produced a pronounced Republican decline 
throughout the nation and established Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt 
of New York as the leading contender for the Democratic presidential 
nomination in 1932. 

"Shannon in Congress will put Kansas City on the map/' declared 
Henry L. Jost, former mayor of Kansas City and a member of Congress 
for one term in the twenties. 

Boss Pendergast sent out the word that everything was to be done to 
elect his old rival as the representative from the Fifth Congressional bis- 
trict of Missouri, which then embraced Jackson County. Cas Welch, 
Shannon's errant protege", forgot recent differences and ordered his fac- 


tion to "vote 'em and count 'em straight" for the Jeffersonian o the 

Not thejeast interesting phase of the campaign was this demonstration 
of party harmony, signifying that Pendergast at last had been able to 
control the factionalism that had dogged the boss organization for nearly 
a half-century. The most important point in Mr. Shannon's elevation to 
Congress was, of course, that he was going on the shelf, leaving Tom 
Pendergast to run the home front pretty much as he pleased. 

Although the Pendergast matter dominated the picture, the sending of 
Joe Shannon to Washington was an event that deserved more attention 
than it received at the time, for it was of greater moment than the fact 
that it removed the Rabbit leader from the Kansas City scene and placed 
him personally under political obligation to the Goat chieftain. As the 
loyal Mr. Henry L. Jost reminded the voters, Shannon was the right man 
to put Kansas City on the map, in the Congressional Record at least. For 
a decade he worked diligently to show that Jackson County was the new 
fountain-head of the old-time Jeffersonian movement. Through his 
speeches and the measures he espoused as congressman, he gave illumi- 
nating expression to a Democratic philosophy that assumed increasing 
importance in the conflicts attending the New Deal uprising, and which 
today still affects the national destiny through another Jackson County 
man in the White House. 

The Jeffersonian revival that Shannon staged was one of the most in- 
structive and entertaining of the political shows offered in the off-year 
elections that brought the first rumblings of the unorthodox New Deal. 
The Rabbit boss was perhaps as well qualified for this work as any man 
who ever went from Jackson County to Washington. He had been pre- 
paring himself for the role of statesman in all the years that he was 
mastering the intricacies of practical politics. 

In the periods when his faction was out of power and the Goats or the 
Republicans took over the task of serving the special interests and ma- 
nipulating the spoils system, Joe Shannon retired to his Jeffersonian 
library. Law books and books on, by and about his national h'ero were 
scattered helter-skelter in his office in the old Scarritt Building. They 
were stacked on tables and chairs, piled on the floor, stuffed on shelves. 
He never had time to arrange them but he read most of them. He had 


been educating himself since he quit school at the age of twelve, in the 
year that the Widow Shannon moved to Kansas City with her large 
family. Beginning with a secondhand copy of Blackstone, Joe read law 
until he qualified himself to pass the bar examination. 

This Rabbit student added a course in the liberal arts by combining 
two of his favorite pursuits travel and reading. He carried a book on 
every trip he took, and sometimes made trips simply to have privacy 
for reading. He took a unique college course when he sent his son, Frank, 
to* California and Missouri universities. When Frank finished with his 
textbooks he sent them to his father. Shannon studied them and carried 
on a voluminous correspondence with his son regarding those texts. 
When Frank finished university, so had Joe. 

Shannon didn't learn all of his Jeflfersonianism from books and poli- 
ticians. He got a large measure of his education by mixing with the 
crowds, keeping his ear to the ground, listening to the argument around 
the cracker barrel and the hot stove. The interest with which he studied 
the common people, and the ease with which he communicated with 
them, was illustrated Sy the manner in which he conducted his first race 
for office. 

While other candidates centered their appeals on the Kansas City 
masses and placed increasing dependence on the blaring radio to carry 
their messages in the fall of 1930, Shannon mounted the stump in towns 
and villages* addressing friendly and earnest groups that seldom num- 
bered more than four hundred. He started his race early with a show in 
the nineteenth century style. Somewhere he found an ancient tent, intact 
with bunting, flags and hardwood benches, that had served in the po- 
litical wars of the past. He set it up and organized a troupe to travel 
from town to town.- Crowds turned out to see the circus, for memories of 
the days it recalled were long and vivid. Except for the substitution of 
electric lights for torches, the show was a scene out of the Forty-Years- 
Ago column. And the speaker on the platform was a figure out of that 
earlier day. Mr. Shannon was a handsome man, somewhat in the Great 
Roman style of Jim Reed but with more of a Bryanesque air. His silvery 
thatched head, wide-set eyes, bold nose and firm chin were the features 
of the dignified statesman but his face was perpetually cast in the amiable 
expression of the countryman and courthouse politician. 


Joe's circus got under way with a brass band giving a concert until the 
tent filled. Before the speaking began three loyal and talented Demo- 
crats Harry Kessel, Dick Okane and Jerry McGee, song-and-dance men 
from Twelfth Street entertained the audience with popular songs, gags 
and wisecracks. Then the future congressman stepped on the platform 
and for an hour or more held the crowd's fascinated attention with an 
authoritative exposition of Jeffersonian philosophy, interlarded with 
colorful references to local history and ending with a stirring call to rally 
in the never-ending fight of the people for Human Rights against 

Shannon's campaign tour in the rural townships brought into the pic- 
ture a part of the county whose character and real importance were over- 
shadowed by the big city on the Kaw which had taken over the wholp 
direction of affairs. The names of the towns told the character of the 
country and the people in thp fifth district Independence, Blue Springs, 
Lake City, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, Buckner, Sibley, Courtney, Hick- 
man Mills, New Santa Fe, Lee's Summit, Grandview, Lone Jack, and 
others saying that the lay of this land was good and men had made great 
history here. 

Politics was not a practical matter of power and spoils or a theory of 
government to these people. Politics was in their blood. It was the old 
time faith. The speaker knew all the key words and organ phrases that 
moved these people for he was one of them, a true Jackson County 
Democrat who spoke the language of Benton, Blair, Vest, Champ Clark, 
Show Me, I'm From Missouri, and You've Got to Quit Kicking My 
Dog Around. 

The Rabbit champion belonged to what might be described as the 
left of Jackson County Democracy. The Goats inclined to the right, as 
represented by Jim Reed. Harry Truman, a Goat, later developed into 
the most conspicuous liberal Democrat from Jackson County, but he 
was a shining exception. At the time he stood for Congress, Joe Shannon 
represented the extreme of Jeffersonian radicalism in the Democratic or- 

An interesting expression of the Jackson County Democratic philoso- 
phy, suggesting its remoteness from the Jeffersonian ideas of New York's 
Franklin D. Roosevelt, was given in the campaign of 1930. Joe's main 


planks for the nation at this grave moment called for elimination of 
government competition with private business and observance of Jeffer- 
son's birthday as a national holiday. He succeeded in getting Mississippi 
and one less benighted Southern state to adopt the holiday idea and after 
he arrived in Washington he got himself appointed chairman of a House 
committee to investigate Federal intrusion in the commercial field. 

Mr. Shannon's Jeffersonian fundamentalism was expressed by him 
in the statement that the "function of our government is political and 
not economic," a principle he advanced with such vigor that he inter- 
ested the National Association of Manufacturers and other large busi- 
ness representatives in his reform. His scheme to check bureaucratic 
competition with private industry was a bill calling for the introduction 
of a cost accounting system in governmental expenditures, setting up 
cost standards which,' if adopted, probably would have made even 
Harry Hopkins think that the New Deal experiment was a financially 
impossible undertaking. His bill died in 1934, in the midst of the Roose- 
veltiaa shotgun wedding of government, business and labor. 

Jim Reed was to go further than Shannon in upholding the states* 
rights theory that the Constitution prohibited the use of the Federal 
authority for any economic and social relief of the people outside of 
building highways and encouraging education. He not only looked on all 
New Deal efforts to establish a system of economic justice as interference 
with American liberties, he also believed that the Republicans had been 
leading the country down the road toward socialism with such radical 
experiments as Hoovers RJF.C for big business and his farm board. 
Jim's indignation over the way Hoover had run things was heightened 
by the fact that Reed's old Missouri enemy, former Governor Arthur M. 
Hyde, assisted the Republican Socialistic coup as Hoover's Secretary of 

In 1930, Reed, two years out of the Senate and preparing to run 
again for the Presidency, was selected to deliver the principal blast from 
Jackson County against the Great Engineer in the White House who 
kept on seeing Prosperity Just Around the Corner while he fumbled with 
measures to arrest the downward spiral The Stormy Petrel's contribu- 
tion to public enlightenment was a vivid recapitulation of all of Hoover's 
mistakes aad a dramatic statement of the size of the calamity, "There 


have been more bank failures in the last few months than have occurred 
since the days of wildcat banking. Six million people walk the streets. 
... All due to the Republicans." The wealthy ex-Senator from Missouri 
aligned himself with the oppressed and assailed Senator Capper of 
Kansas as the tool of big business. He warmed up as he turned to the 
subject of Farmer Hyde and his futile efforts to conjure away the farm 
surplus. "He has two remedies, sovereign, complete and pleasing," said 
Reed. "His remedy for the surplus is that we must eat it up. Women 
must quit reducing and men must enlarge the capacity of their bellies. 
It's a wonderful solution and the other day I heard of a farmer who had 
solved his problems under this system. He took a load of hogs to market 
but the price was so low that it wouldn't pay him for the cost of trans- 
portation and he refused to sell. As he was starting back home, the buyer 
argued with him and told him, 'No use of you trying to sell these hogs 
some place else, you won't get a better price.' *I am not going to sell these 
hogs,' said the farmer. 1 am going to take them home and sit up nights 
to eat 'em.'" 

Hyde replied with a pleasant irony. "Yes, Reed went after me," he said. 
"I would have been hurt if he hadn't. The thing that worried me, though, 
was that he didn't say anything about the Radio Corporation he is suing, 
and said nothing about the radio trust he represents. I was worried, too, 
because he spoke kindly of Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jeff erson and 
I can't understand that unless he figured that they had been dead too 
long to be registered." 

Joe Shannon also was eloquent on the subjects of Hoover, Hyde and 
the farm surplus, playing on the same refrain as Reed except that he was 
somewhat more specific than Reed with respect to a remedy for the farm 
surplus problem. Asked by a heckler to explain what he would do to get 
rid of the surplus, Joe replied: "I would abolish Arthur M. Hyde." That 
was about as far as the leaders went in defining the real issues of the 
campaign. ' 

On election day the people went to the polls in a mass. The experts 
explained that they went in such numbers to register a protest against 
the party in power, blaming it for the depression. Although the cam- 
paigning hadn't made much sense it was clear that free enterprise for 
monopoly had made a hash of things and the traditional party of big 

i 74 TOM'S TOWN 

business didn't have the least idea of how to deal with the breakdown. 
However, it is doubtful if the Democrats convinced many people that 
they knew what to do for recovery, either. In Jackson County, for in- 
stance, few of the thousands who voted for the Democratic ticket picked 
by the machine could have been under the illusion that they were bal- 
loting for a new order. Tke facts seem to be that the people turned out, 
as usual, for many reasons, among which was the desire for a change 
based on the sound theory that they couldn't get anything worse than 
what they had, and there was always a chance for a miracle. 

It was a relatively quiet election in Jackson County. Kansas City was 
on its good behavior. The excitement was confined to the county seat 
town of Independence where there were rumors that two high-powered 
Democrats were to be kidnaped and Harry S. Truman, presiding judge 
of the County Court, was alarmed by a reported attempt to kidnap his 
six-year-old daughter, Margaret. As it turned out, the only person kid- 
naped was 'a Republican, Rex V. Hedrick, then chairman of the Jack- 
son County Election Board, who was seized while driving to the Election 
Board offices with evidence of Democratic vote padding. His abductors 
gave him a beating, taped his eyes and helcT him" prisoner all day, releas- 
ing him in Kansas City on the West Bluffs just after the polls closed. 

Democrats swept up everything in Jackson County. Missouri and 
national politicians paid special attention to the returns from this county, 
for Pendergast delivered the largest Democratic vote and the krgest 
majority in history up to that time. Leading the ticket were two county 
men, both from Independence and both of them to have an important 
bearing on the future of the Kansas City machine, one of them to bring 
it great prestige and the other to have a very depressing effect. They were 
Harry Truman, re-elected presiding judge of the County Court by 57,859 
majority, and Judge Allen C. Southern, returned to the Circuit Court 
bench by 58,061. 

Joe Shannon was sent to Congress by a margin of more than forty-five 
thousand votes. The discrepancy between him and the Independence 
men was not accounted for by friction in the new order of the machine 
but was directly attributable to the Republican opposition in the person 
of Rep. E. C. Ellis, running for re-election. Mr. Ellis was a rock-ribbed 
Hamiltonian who by contrast made a nineteenth centurv liberal of the 


Shannon type seem very radical indeed, and he raised a great alarm over 
the Jeflfersonian revival conducted by the Rabbit champion. He wasn't 
able to prevail against the Pendergast trend, but he had the satisfaction 
of leading his ticket in the county, which may have been a tribute to 
the power of the Ellis oratory and personality but also may be taken 
as an indication that the old-fashioned Jeffersonian of Kansas Gity was 
too advanced to suit a certain element of his party even in 1930. 

The Heart of America 


KANSAS CITY'S "monument to the Depression/* so ^described by Editor 
Bill White of Emporia in a laudatory editorial, wa| the Ten-Year Plan 
that was adopted in 1931. That ambitious undertaking exemplified the 
native zip which the Real Estate Board still endeavors to cultivate with 
its Up and Coming slogan for Kansas City. It was also a notable demon- 
stration of the Heart of America spirit, which was peculiarly identified 
with the Pendergast Goats. The Goats had much to do with the Ten- 
Year Plan and one Goat was responsible for naming Kansas City the 
Heart of America. 

This story, which has more charm than most yarns with a political 
flavor, begins back in 1911, when the town was trying somewhat indiffer- 
ently to publicize itself as the City on the Kaw. That was the year when 
Edwin J. Shannahan came to town to identify himself politically with 
the Pendergast faction and win local distinction as a patriot, Commercial 
Club booster and fraternal leader. He was the local head of the Fraternal 
Order of Eagles when that order held its national convention in Kansas 
City in 1914. It was then that Ed was struck with his happiest inspiration. 
Convinced that his new home had a special significance and destiny in 
the national picture, he coined The Heart of America for the literature 
ballyhooing the convention city of the Eagles. The Commercial Club 
tiier^ adopted it as a permanent designation and Arthur Pryor, whose 
band played here fpi the Eagles' convention, later composed a "Heart 
of America March," dedicated to Ed Shannahan. Another bandman, 
Sousa, chose that march as the official song for Camp Funstoa in the 



First World War and thousands of Middle Western boys marched away 
to its lively strains. 

The location of Kansas City near the geographical center of the United 
States was not to Ed Shannahan the most important factor in determin- 
ing the appropriateness of his symbolic label. "It is the spirit the name 
suggests that is even more significant," he said. "The word 'America* 
gives it a patriotic flavor and the word 'Heart' stands for all that is noble 
in life affection, sympathy, enthusiasm, hospitality, generosity and 
other warm attributes which Kansas City possesses." 

Ed Shannahan himself expressed those qualities in many individual 
ways despite his involvement in the political rivalries that placed such a 
heavy strain on the Heart of America before Ed's death in 1944. Mr. 
Shannahan held political office by grace of Pendergast, serving as city 
director of personnel from 1926 to 1930, retiring from public life to devote 
himself to charitable work at a time when the civic harmony and build- 
ing movement wa$ having its last grand flourish. 

The original Heart of America man took only a very mild hope in 
the future of his movement in the political field. He and other patriots 
concentrated on hardware conventions, livestock shows, fraternal so- 
cieties, parades and such to spread their gospel. Ed's own particular 
prescription for the activity that would bring out the true Kansas City 
qualities was sociability combined with exercise. His instrument for this 
work was the Heart of America Walking Club, which set the standard 
for hiking for a decade or so. "Make your daily walk your most im- 
portant secular duty," was Ed's advice to businessmen. "A walk will cure 
you of worries, frets and office fatigue." Each spring he sounded the call 
to the lanes and bypaths and hundreds of walkers responded. To pro- 
vide special inspiration, Ed walked a race from the Coates House to 
Swope Park, a jaunt of eight miles, with Kirb^McRill, the Unkissed 
Farmer and Walking Marvel f rom 'Tonganoxie, Kansas. Kirby won 
easily, of course, but Ed got more converts and drew international atten- 
tion to his project. One letter of praise came from Marshal Foch of 
France. President Coolidge interrupted his budget slashing long enough 
to send congratulations on the promotion of this "most inexpensive" 
mode of exercise. 

The most enduring product of the Heart of America walking venture 


was Kirby McRill, who dedicated himself to the causes of private enter- 
prise, civic boosting and hiking. He commanded the affection and esteem 
of all social classes in a community that admires posiiive individualism 
but does not look kindly on forms of exhibitionism that are inspired 1 
merely by a desire to achieve notoriety. Kirby was the genuine article in 
native eccentricity. He entered the movement to put Kansas City on the 
map with as much civic enthusiasm as his backers, and his performance 
was only moderately tainted with the commercialism that was mani- 
fested in the circus stunts of the period. 

When other cities, like Baltimore, Chicago and San Francisco, were 
attempting to enhance their prestige with flagpole sitters and other 
endurance freaks, Kirby quietly went about his business of providing: 
public entertainment on a year-round basis, with or without special en- 
couragement. "He drewattentioriVherever he went with his long red hair 
and his fierce red mustache, his magnificent stride and the pushcart he 
trundled before him. He came to Kansas City from Leavenworth County, 
Kansas, looking for romance. Here he met Daisy Bell HickS, a coed at the 
Timpe Barber College. Their courtship continued through three happy 
years until Daisy Bell jilted Kirby. He sued her for two hundred and 
fifty thousand dollars for breach of promise and found solace walking 
far and wide with his pushcart. He let his whiskers and beard grow into 
a thick brick-hued bush, devised a distinctive costume consisting of a 
baseball suit, golf socks and sneakers and wended his way through 
crowds with the solemnity of a fugitive first baseman from the House of 

Kirby lost both his unkissed status and some of his walking prestige 
in 1922 when vaudeville and civic boosters entered him in a contest with 
George N. Brown, the World Walk King, over a three-mile course 
through the downtown streets. Two mayors the mayor-elect and the 
retiring city executive stood at the starting line to give the match official 
dignity. The throngs cheered and Kirby crossed the finish line first but 
was disqualified on a technicality. He cantered while the World Cham- 
pion walked. The crowd booed the decision and Kirby was kissed twice^ 
once for publicity by a Twelfth, Street; showgirl and once for the hell of 
it by a local lady patriot. 

It was decided that Mr. McRill had been improperly matched in this 


competition for he was an endurance rather than a sprint walker. Con- 
rad H. Mann, sparkplug of the Chamber of Commerce, and several pro- 
gressive spirits in the Heart of America Walking Club promoted another 
demonstration to show the nation what the Kansas City champion could 
do, arranging a walk to Chicago, a distance of more than four hundred 
and fifty miles. Kirby rolled into Chicago a day ahead of schedule, travel- 
ing on track rights granted by the Santa Fe and averaging sixty-three 
miles a day, but he was dissatisfied with this feat. He was welcomed in 
Chicago by Con Mann and Ed Shannahan, who sent a telegram advising 
Kansas City why Kirby didn't do better: "Shoes tight, blisters causing 
him to lose half a day. Slippery track part way. Snow near Carrollton. 
Stopped to buy a shirt at Galesburg. Interference at Chillicothe. An hour's 
delay in railroad yards here waiting for orders." 

Kirby hoped to set a transcontinental record for the Heart of America 
and he announced that in 1926 he would swim the English Channel and 
break all previous records, after which he would call on King George, 
but these ambitious plans did not work out. Kirby returned to Kansas 
City and his pushcart, 1 keeping himself in hiking form as an industrious 
collector of paper and odd trash. Con Mann found less time for play. 
Fashions in civic enterprise, private endeavor, exercise and other things 
changed but Kirby remained true to the old ways and made no con- 
cessions to time except that his pace grew slower and his red hair and 
whiskers grayed while he looked more and more like a minor prophet 
escaped from the Bible. 

Conrad H. Mann's association with the Heart of America hiking and 
the Kirby McRill diversions illustrated the range of his interests as a 
citizen and a booster. Con was the Get It Done Man in Kansas City for 
two decades. Towering of frame, dynamic, indefatigable, filled with 
boundless personal ambition and civic spirit, he was the personification 
of the American promoter who shines in private enterprise and public 
life. A German from "up north'* with a mystery in his background, he 
was long accepted among the native sons as one of the citizens who con- 
spicuously exhibited the qualities that made America great. He came 
<iown from Milwaukee and supposedly was a native of Iowa. 

Mann's principal work was done in the period between 1928 and 1933, 
when he directed the Chamber of Commerce along lines that brought it 


closer to the political organization headed by Pendergast, His monu- 
ment was the Ten-Year Bond campaign which reached a successful 
climax in the summer of 1931, midway between the political campaigns 
of 1930 and 1932 that established Pendergast's position as the boss o 
Kansas City and the political power in the state. Mann was listed as a 
Republican but he was a practical nonpartisan who operated among 
the big men of both parties. 

In the twenty years preceding his rise to command of the Chamber of 
Commerce, Mann impressed his personality on the town in ways that 
brought profit to both himself and the community. He arrived in the city 
to work as secretary of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which in 1907 
moved its national offices to Kansas City. Con's promotional zeal made 
him so valuable to the Eagles that he became the permanent international 
secretary of that large enterprise in sociability and insurance. He ex- 
panded in other lines, stepped up as general manager, secretary and 
treasurer of a brewery combine 'and took a hand in downtown real estate 
and financial operations. Joining the old Commercial Club, later the 
Chamber of Commerce, he forged to the front and was soon made 
chairman of the Convention Bureau. 

From that time on Con Mann was in the center and usually at the 
head of every activity designed to elevate and advertise his home town, 
whether it was arrangements for a convention party that the undertakers 
or chiropodists would never forget, a scheme to force opera or symphony 
on the people, a plan to discourage crime, or a charity drive. In 1928 he 
was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce, a post he held for six 
years, breaking precedent for length of tenure and retiring with the 
status of permanent honorary president. 

By fortuitous circumstance, Mann's administration was well timed for 
the city in general and the Pendergast organization in particular. His 
was the expansive spirit that gave Kansas City a lift at a time when most 
of the country was going into a prolonged economic recession. And his 
was the function that enabled all interests to work with the political ma- 
chine in the most ambitious building venture undertaken since the days 
when the city's park-and-boulevard system was designed and built under 
the direction of Kessler, Meyer and Nelson. 

Mann was made general chairman of the Civic Improvement Com- 


mittee that was selected by the new mayor, Bryce B. Smith. His Commit- 
tee started the ball rolling shortly after the city election that gave complete 
control to the Democratic organization for four years. Out of it grew the 
Committed of 1,000 which Mann headed and which planned the Tea- 
Year Bond Program, conducted the successful campaign and attempted 
to supervise the execution of the program. 

Colonel Nelson had found it necessary at times to make a deal with 
the machine politicians to get parks and boulevards. It was necessary to 
do the same thing for the Ten-Year Plan. The deaji was nothing like a 
direct pay-off or a back-room arrangement. The inducement to the ma- 
chine was the knowledge that it would have direct control of the spend- 
ing of the millions under the program. Elaborate precautions were taken 
to insure that the money was spent properly but the building trade was 
set up in a fashion that made it certain a large share of the business 
would fall to interests in good standing with the organization, and profits 
would be large even if there were no- boodling. And, o course, the po- 
litical prestige that went with responsibility for the program was a large 

The Pendergast organization publicly indorsed the bond plan and the 
Welch and Shannon factions followed suit. Republican leaders approved 
the program and participated in its promotion, hoping earnestly that 
this would turn out to be a Nonpartisan venture, as planned, rather than 
a Democratic project, as happened. The Star, carrying on the Nelson 
tradition, was in the forefront of the movement. The Committee of 1,000 
took in all elements of the population and enlisted the best engineering, 
business and political minds to work out the details. Projects were ap- 
proved on the basis of need and a showing of popular preference, de- 
termined at a series of public hearings before the various committees. 
When the plans were finally assembled, the program was presented to 
the public in a campaign'that was notable for its effort to inform rather 
than excite the voters. It was, in all, a rare and stirring example of de- 
mocracy in action. 

The people went to the polls with the slogan, Make Kansas City the 
Greatest Inland City, and voted for the bonds four to one, castipg more 
than eighty-nine thousand ballots. It was the largest vote ever registered 
at a special election. The town celebrated the event with a Jubilee of 


Progress, taking five days to express its elation in every form of entertain- 
ment from a rodeo to an airplane and autogyro show. 

The plan called for expenditure over a ten-year period of thirty-two 
million dollars for city projects and with it were combined seven million 
nine hundred and fifty thousand dollars for county projects, making a 
total of $39,950,000. With the Federal aid money that was later added, 
it was estimated that about fifty million dollars actually was spent under 
the program. Out of it came a thirty-two-story City Hall, a skyscraper 
Courthouse in .Kansas City, a new police building, a Municipal Audi- 
torium that covered a block, paved roads that completed one of the 
most extensive county highway systems in the country, trafficways and 
boulevards, hospital extensions, a new water works system, parks, play- 
grounds, sewer extensions and flood protection, a public market and 
Bother important installations. The program was providential for Kansas 
City. The depression was late in manifesting itself in this inland center 
and it never struck with full force, thanks in large measure to the em- 
ployment provided by the public construction. 

Conrad H. Mann was presented a silver watch at a ceremony honor- 
ing him for his effective work. He and his Committee were counted on 
to restrain the politicians in the spending of the Ten-Year-Bond funds, 
The Country Bookkeeper had figured in a controversy over employ- 
ment policy in public construction work several months before the 
Ten-Year-Plan election. In the first winter of the depression the city 
found itself facing an unemployment emergency. With his customary 
resourcefulness, Judge McElroy proposed that the city raise a million 
dollars by the sale of Water Department notes, the funds to be used to 
put the jobless men immediately to work building water main exten- 
sions. That admirable proposal was approved by Mr. Mann and the 
Bond Cbihmittee, and the City Manager worked out a plan to create 
a maximum number of jobs by dispensing with tractors and excavating 
machinery wherever possible, substituting picks, shovels and wheel- 
barrows. McElroy's pick-and-shovel army created wide interest when it 
first appeared, and the City Manager was not slow to exploit the political 
credit. The idea, he said, was exclusively his, and he insisted that his 
plan suggested the CWA, predecessor of the WPA, to Harry Hopkins 
and the New Dealers. The favorable impression lasted until the Re- 


publicans and the Star complained that the city administration had estab- 
lished a system of giving the jobs only to loyal Democrats, ignoring a 
gentleman's agreement with Mr. Mann to let the Chamber of Commerce 
employment bureau place the applicants. 

Mr. Mann intervened in the relief matter to restpre peace, after it was 
reported that one thousand of the first fifteen hundred jobs were filled 
through the Democratic precinct captains' employment system, but the 
agitation over discrimination was revived after the Bond election, and 
steadily grew louder. It reached its height in the Brush Creek sewer 
project. South Side taxpayers were horrified at the size of the pick-and- 
shovel army engaged in clearing the channel of this once picturesque 
stream, along which Daniel Morgan Boone, son of the great Dan'l, 
trapped beaver more than a century before it became a sanitary and 
political problem for the Country Cliib district. The pain of the South 
Siders grew more acute when they saw their creek being given a solid 
concrete bed. The long country-wide howl over boon-doggling probably 
started in Kansas City. It was provoked by the waste of manpower in 
the Brush Creek project, and magnified by the combination of Pender- 
gast's concrete monopoly with relief jobs. If it was a fact that the Judge 
gave Harry Hopkins the idea for his emergency made-work program, 
he got the CWA off to a very bad start. 

It had been hoped ttiat the city administration could be prevailed on 
to follow the example of the county government under the direction of 
Harry Truman, presiding judge of the County Court. Truman's work 
with the citizens' advisory group and the record of his administration 
were potent factors in the campaign for the Ten-Year bonds. Under a 
seven-million-dollar-bond program that was authorized in 1928, Truman 
introduced planning, expert direction and bipartisan control in a man- 
ner that was new to Jackson County politics. He engaged two consulting 
engineers, Colonel E. M. Stayton and N. T. Veatch, Jr., one a Democrat 
and the other a Republican, gave them a free hand in laying out a new 
road system and saw to it that their recommendations were carried out 
in building the highways and a new county hospital. Judge Truman fol- 
lowed the same standards in the additional county building authorized 
by the Ten-Year Program. Two hundred and forty-four miles of paved 
roadways were built twenty more than originally estimated and the 


type of pavement constructed bore little resemblance to the pie-crust 
roads built in the past. When the projects were completed there was a 
tidy balance in the fund, giving the County Court a chance to wind up its 
frugal custodianship of the public purse with a characteristic Truman 
flourish. The Judge used part of the surplus for an equestrian statue of 
Andy Jackson in front of the new County Courthouse and there was 
more than enough left over to finance a special bond celebration for the 
people of Jackson County, a mammoth barbecue at Sni-a-Bar Farms. 
That affair was historically interesting on two counts. It was the first 
exhibition of the future President's exceptional talent for mixing serious 
public business and pleasure, and it produced the damnedest traffic jam 
ever seen in rural Jackson County. 

The bond planners had made provision for a nine-man advisory com- 
mittee to v^atch over the politicians in the City Hall and the Council 
agreed to that supervision, adopting a resolution pledging adherence to 
the spirit and letter of the bond program, agreeing to follow the com- 
mittee's recommendations where they did not conflict with official duties 
and obligations, etc., etc. Mr. Mann appointed a committee of five Demo- 
crats and four Republicans. He left himself off the list but the City 
Council and its Hired Man did not like the idea of not having Con Mann 
watching over them, too. So the Council appointed him to the committee, 
increasing the membership to ten, and he was elected chairman. "That 
makes it completely bipartisan," Judge McElroy remarked with satis- 

/'Early in the Ten-Year-Bond building program, in the winter of 
,'1932-33, the public was startled to read a report from Walter Matscheck 
of the Civic Research Institute, showing that the city was renting 
machinery at excessive rates from favored concerns, letting contracts 
without competitive bidding and otherwise ignoring proper regulations 
foSTTEeTprogram. The matter became a political issue when a group of 
Republican lawyers filed an equity suit to recove^ more than $400,000, 
from city officials, alleging that that amount of the bond funds had 
been misspent. 

Con Mann's advisory committee held a meeting and ordered an audit 
and City Manager McElroy interpreted the auditor's report as an ex- 
^oneration of the administration. In fact, he insisted that the audit showed 


the city had rented the equipment at an actual saving rather than the 
overcharge of more, than $200,000 discovered by Mr. Matscheck. The 
research man analyzed the audit and declared that the figures confirmed 
his finding, and even indicated that the excessive payments were greater 
than he had originally reported. The McElroy view prevailed on the 
advisory committee and the City Council and the incident closed with 
a light reprimand to the administration, which was advised to improve 
its bookkeeping system and supervise the letting o contracts more 
closely, McElroy thereafter ran the bond program with little interference 
from any source except the Federal government, which entered into 
some of the supervision through the extension of Federal aid in public 
building. Walter Matscheck left Kansas City in 1936 to take a post with 
the Social Science Research Council in Washington. There were no more 
audits of the Bond Program until after McElroy. retired in 1939, when 
it was found that more thanfeleven million dollars of the funds had been 

ij-r ,-'"" 1ri - i fi 

spent in a manner that violated charter provisions covering the letting 
of contracts. 

Con Mann and the Committee of 1,000 were no match for the Country 
Bookkeeper. Mann's real work for his town was done when he stage- 
managed the Ten-Year-Plan campaign. Not long after this he had 
troubles of his own with the Federal government which permanently 
depressed his promoter spirit. 



IN LOOKING for a date to mark the beginning of the Pendergast decline, 

historians may find it in the year 1932, which was some time before the 
deterioration was visible to the general public. Many politicians and 
observers say that the downward trend set in with the establishment of 
Home Rule, giving control of the Police Department to City Manager 
McElroy and the organization, an event that occurred early in 1932. 
However, it is possible to discern the turning point in another episode 
that made a more lasting impression on the popular mind than the Home 
Rule decision. 


As so often happens in a community that is hardened to trouble and 
has a rugged sense o humor that disposes it to see the light side of prac- 
tically anything, this break in the peace began as something of a comedy 
and continued in that fashion, providing some entertainment along with 
vast irritation. It also produced the first opposition since the beginning 
of the boom that Judge McElroy was unable to overwhelm, and the por- 
tentous significance of this uprising was only slightly obscured by the 
outlandish nature of the whole affair, which began early in 1932. 

Cause of the excitement was a spectacle known as a walkathon, a re- 
finement of the dance marathon, which became both a political event and 
a popular entertainment when City Manager McElroy decided to sup- 
press it for reasons that had nothing to do with the walkathon's curious 
psychological effect on the masses. People rode vast distances to sit on 
their rumps and watch miserable couples who staggered around the floor 
of El Torreon Ballroom, where the show was staged. Although there 
was no political emotion in this sports exhibition outside that provided 
by the Country Bookkeeper, it managed to be a thoroughly grotesque 
performance bearing a certain resemblance to the obscene party rallies 
promoted by Hitler's Nazis in Germany. The sweating, rude, shoving, 
cheering crowd in El Torreon gave itself up joyously to pure animal 
emotion. It could have been turned into a mob on short notice and, on 
one or two occasions, it almost was. 

The City Manager interfered with the show after it had operated 
three weeks. He appeared one night accompanied by officials of the 
Building Inspection and Fire departments and ordered the walkathon 
stopped within five minutes. His cause of complaint was that the crowd 
was seated on wooden benches, violating a fire protection regulation. 
His action followed a dispute between the promoters and Johnny Lazia, 
the North Side politician. The managers tried to mollify the City Man- 
ager, offering to remove any fire hazards they had created, but the Judge 
insisted that the walkathon close immediately and finally. Asked by a 
newspaper reporter to state his grounds for closing the show if the fire 
hazard was eliminated, Judge McElroy replied loftily: "Coffee grounds. 5 * 

His statement was acclaimed as a masterpiece of cracker-barrel wit 
and machine arrogance at the supreme moment of McElroy's power, 
and figured in later political campaigns. Opposition orators asserted 


that "coffee grounds" suggested to Lazia the idea of setting up a mo- 
nopoly in coffee sold to restaurants and hamburger bungalows. 

Despite McElroy, the walkathon reopened when the promoters ob- 
tained a restraining order against the city from the Federal Court, but 
official harassment continued for two more weeks while North Side 
hoodlums devised some other methods to discourage the artistic enter- 
prise in El Torreon. Police were called to break up an attack made by a 
group of rowdies. A Lazia lieutenant was arrested for setting off a stench 
bomb in the ballroom. The city filed complaints compelling the police 
to arrest the proprietors, and the police judge rebuked the city admin- 
istration for imposing an impossible set of requirements. A tear gas 
attack and another stink bomb distracted the walkers and their partisans, 
but nothing could stop the walkathon, for a large part of the public had 
found that it offered a rare form of escape. The excitement spread 6ver 
the city and a group of Negroes announced they would have a walkathon 
of their own and would go the white folks one better by having a sitting 
marathon as a sideshow. 

The Torreon circus was a sitting marathon for thousands, who came 
early and stayed late. Some of the fans lived on the benches in order to 
stay close to their adored champions. An intense rivalry developed be- 
tween the partisans of young love and the defenders of marital felicity. 
Almost all of the contestants were romantic figures. There were brother- 
and-sister teams and sister teams in the race, along with several lone 
wolves, but the crowd lost sight of them in cheering for the youthful 
sweethearts planning to get married on the prize money, and the wedded 
couples who were trying to collect, something for the grocery bill. Youth 
was the popular choice and the outcome was predicted by one of the 
promoters, who sagely observed: "I've never seen a married couple win 
a walkathon." 

One of the romances had national repercussions, for it started Red 
Skelton on his way to fame as a wow of the radio and screen. Red entered 
the scene when one of the walkathon masters of ceremony wandered 
away. The managers hurriedly drafted Skelton to fill the place. Red was 
then appearing in the Gayety Burlesque Theater, a Hoosier comic earn- 
ing fifteen dollars a week in an act called "The Three Bananas." (He was 
the Third Banana, the others being Bozo Nelson and Joe Yule, Mickey 

188 TOM'S 

Rooney's father.) At El Torreon, Red's attention was drawn to a pretty 
Kansas City girl, Edna Stilwell, and his admiration for her grew as he 
watched her outwalk several partners, perambulate through a high 
fever and finish with the winning couple. She was disqualified from a 
part in the one-thousand-dollar prize money because she had no partner. 
She did not despair but married Red immediately after the contest ended 
and set about changing his act and writing skits and gags for him. Thus 
El Torreon in its lunatic-days made its major contribution to the happi- 
ness of a nation which can't get enough of Red, Junior and "I dood it." 

So tough is the human constitution and so wonderful the human 
spirit that by the time the walkathon ended, 117 days after it began, the 
crowds were behaving almost rationally, everyone was refreshed, senti- 
ment overflowed in all hearts and the contestants had put on weight, 
some gaining up to fifteen pounds. They were also intellectually im- 
proved, the management said. "The walkathon gives them opportunities 
to develop their minds," declared Leo Seltzer, one of the promoters. 
"Many of them read good books while walking around out there." 

The great event ended the night of May 30,1932, to the accompaniment 
of the sweetest story ever told, the winning couple being married at a 
public ceremony in El Torreon. They were dressed to represent George 
and Martha Washington, and attended by couples garbed in Colonial 
costumes in an elaborate setting designed to carry out the Washington 
Bi-Centennial theme of the year. The Reverend Earl Blackman, an un- 
attached parson who ran around with sportsmen and intellectuals, 
spliced the winners and everyone went away uplifted. 

One possible explanation of the medical phenomenon presented by the 
good health of the walkathon .participants is that they ate more regularly 
than they had since the depression set in. They also missed entirely sev- 
eral hundred calamities .marking the world's plunge into fascism and 
war- In addition to hearing nothing about the Japanese bombardment of 
Shanghai, the failure of the League of Nations, the crisis in France, the 
Mannerheim Fascist coup in Finland, the Japanese-American diplomatic 
crisis in China and Hoover's fumbling with the American unemploy- 4 
meat crisis, they were not aware that while they slept on their feet Home 
Rule had come to Kansas City. 

When they left El Torreon the night of May 30, they stepped back into 


a world that was a very' disorderly place measured by the walkatho*n 
standard. For several days Kansas City had been in the midst of one of 
its greatest disturbances, which grew out of Home Rule and Rabbi 
Mayerberg's objection to that reform. 


IN THE MONTH of May, 1932, City Manager McElroy was out of the city 
enjoying a well-earned vacation, Tom Pendergast was preoccupied with 
state and national political affairs, the next city election was two years 
away and the Republicans hadn't even begun to think about what they 
would do then. It would have been difficult to select a less likely time to 
start a full-scale offensive against the city administration, which was the 
moment that Samuel S. Mayerberg chose for his campaign to drive 
McElroy from the City Hall. The attack failed of its main purpose, but 
it was the beginning of the revolt which overwhelmed the boss organiza- 
tion seven long years later. And it was no small beginning, despite the 
irregularity or inappropriateness of the Mayerberg approach. 

Mr. Mayerberg was the rabbi of Temple B'Nai Jehudah, one of the 
leading congregations of the town's substantial Jewish community, and 
he had been a citizen of Kansas City less than four years when he issued 
his surprising challenge to Pendergast, McElroy, Lazia & Co. Naturally 
it took the public some time to get adjusted to the idea that this was a 
serious political movement against the machine. With a few minor ex- 
ceptions, the clergy in the past had rigorously observed the tradition that 
government was a monopoly of the businessman and their political 
stooges. Some elements of the body politic never got over the feeling 
that Rabbi Mayerberg was embarking on a radical and dangerous course 
in ignoring this old precedent. The Rabbi could not at one blow knock 
out the deep-rooted convention that the preacher's place was in the pul- 
pit, far above the mundane concerns of men, but he did succeed in 
demolishing the popular notion that ministers have no talent for the 
political life. 

The Rabbi was a slender, intense figure who radiated friendliness, f ore- 
bearance and positive convictions, combining a brisk modern manner 

i 9 o TOM'S TOWN 

with an Old Testament look. A Reform rabbi, he had 'served his church 
eleven years in Detroit, Michigan, and Dayton, Ohio, before he came to 
Kansas City, where he immediately served notice of his intention to take 
a full part in the life of the community. His fight on McElroy was not 
the result of an impetuous decision and the Rabbi was not the political 
tyro that he appeared to be to many people who had not closely followed 
his work. The contest against the machine was, in fact, the climax of a 
three-year one-man crusade in which Mayerberg had learned his way 
around in Kansas City and Missouri politics and found that the local dis- 
turbance was but one aspect of a rather broad disorder in the Heart of 
America region. 

The Rabbi's first important exchange with the politicians occurred in 
the sex-questionnaire episode which rocked the University of Missouri 
and brought a change in administration at that conservative institution 
of higher learning. Mayerberg teamed with Kansas City's liberal Protes- 
tant churchmen, Burris Jenkins and L. M. Birkhead, in that fight. With 
the assistance of Kansas City and St. Louis newspapers, and a few other 
bold spirits, 'they made a spirited stand against the bigots who gave a 
performance that was only slightly less comical than the famous Scopes 
Monkey Trial at Dayton, Tennessee, and one that was almost as sad. 

The M. U. issue, which started in 1929 and ran on for many months, 
grew out of a harmless research project in Sociology. A graduate student 
instructor in Psychology, one O. H. Mowrer, prepared a questionnaire 
that was circulated among the students of Dr. Harmon O. DeGraflf, 
assistant professor of Sociology, the students being asked to give honest 
answers to several intimate questions covering their attitudes and ex- 
periences in sex relations, if any. The idea that boys and girls of college 
age should be required to consider such indelicate questions enraged 
many of the rural editors, most of the preachers and a large proportion of 
the politicians. E. M. Watson's Columbia Daily Tribune, published in 
the Athens of Missouri, as the university town was called by its Chamber 
of Commerce, did a thorough job of alarming the home guard with its 
disclosure of the research project. North Todd Gentry, a Republican 
saint and a former attorney general of the state, roused the Columbia 
merchants to sign petitidxxs demanding the removal of Mowrer and Pro- 
fessor DeGrafE along with the head of the Sociology Department, Dr. 


Max Meyer, one o the school's most eminent scholars. Dr. Meyer's re- 
sponsibility for the sex inquiry consisted merely of failing to interfere 
with it, but the Fundamentalists were not disposed to let him off on a 
technicality for they knew him as a confirmed freethinker. 

The politicians in the Missouri General Assembly leaped eagerly into 
the ruckus, defending the old hayloft moral code against the whole kit 
and caboodle of modern agitators and debunkers, and threatening to 
reduce the legislative appropriation for the University unless the school 
administration got back on the old-fashioned basis. While the legislators 
ranted and the curators sweated; the M. U. students expressed their dis- 
gust in various derisive ways. When the Board of Curators reported its 
findings, firing Mowrer and DeGrafif and dismissing Meyer for one year, 
the students were restrained with difficulty from going on a strike. The 
American Association of University Professors entered the controversy, 
censuring the board and criticizing the administration of the school 
under a president who was more of a politician than an educator. Agita- 
tion continued until the Curators finally admitted that the University 
was under an oppressive regime and called for the resignation of the 
president. However, the order against DeGraf? and Meyer was ajlowed 
to stand and the incident ended with Rabbi Mayerberg still in a crusad- 
ing mood. 

The furor created by the M. U. business had hardly settled when he 
was drawn into a couple of other episodes that broadened his knowledge 
of Missouri social prejudices and political customs, and Strengthened his 
fighting spirit. In January, 1931, Mr. Mayerberg was traveling in North- 
west Missouri, returning to Kansas City from a speaking engagement, 
when his train stopped at Maryville and a stranger in the seat next to 
him remarked: "If you want to see a first-class lynching come back here a 
week from today." Investigating further, the Rabbi learned that the 
promised lynching was in the case of Raymond Gunn, a Negro, who 
had been arrested for the rape-murder of a young white woman who 
was the teacher in a rural school near Mary ville. 

Mr. Mayerberg called the Missouri governor by long distance tele- 
phone and succeeded in convincing that official that an emergency ex- 
isted in peaceful Nodaway County. A unit of the National Guard was 


sent to Maryville for the day when the Negro, who confessed the crime, 
was to be arraigned. The guardsmen remained idly in the Maryville 
Armory while the savage play ran its course. Raymond Gunn Was 
chained to the roof of the little school where the tragedy began and 
burned to death before fifteen thousand watchers. The exhibition of 
official indifference in submitting to mob rule was followed by a round 
of buck-passing which did .nothing to improve Rabbi Mayerberg's opin- 
ion of politicians. 

A more intimate experience with politicians and the American system 
of justice came in this period jvhen the Rabbi attempted to save the life 
of a Jewish youth. The victim was Joe Hershon, son of immigrants and a 
product of the slums, who was involved in the murder of a policeman 
late in 1929 and paid the supreme penalty some two years later on the 
gallows in the Jackson County jail. Mr. Mayerberg realized he was in- 
viting criticism when he intervened in this case and took that course in 
the face of his own expressed conviction that a Jew, if found guilty of a 
crime, "should be doubly punished, once as an individual guilty of an 
anti-social act and once because he brought disgrace upon the Jewish 
community/' There was no question of Joe Hershon's guilt but Rabbi 
Mayerberg went to his assistance because justice in this instance was 

The bullets that killed the policeman were fired by one of Hershon's 
accomplices, who committed suicide in jail after making 'a confession. 
Charles M. Curtis, leader of the gang, got off with a life sentence after 
Hershon Was condemned to death. The jury was reported deadlocked by 
one juror's opposition to the death penalty, and the dispute composed 
by agreement on a life sentence for Curtis. The inconsistency between 
the two verdicts added to his opposition to capital punishment, led Mr. 
Mayerberg to make a vigorous fight to have Hershon's sentence com- 
muted to life imprisonment. His campaign ended in the governor's of- 
fice, where the chief executive listened sympathetically to the Mayerberg 
plea and explained the things that made it politically inexpedient for the 
governor to intervene. 

Mayerberg's effort to save the Jewish slum boy was overshadowed in 
public interest by another of Jim Reed's- sensational performances in a 
court of justice, which occurred in this period. Reed appeared as the de- 


James A. Reed came on the scene with Pendergast backing, served eighteen years in the 
Senate, made two bids for Democratic presidential nomination, broke with Wilson and 
Roosevelt and finally turned against Pendergast. 



The Honorable Joseph B. 
Shannon was a member of the 
National House of Representa- 
tives for six terms (1931-1943) 
and head o the Democratic 
faction which alternately 
warred against and worked 
with the Fender gast organiza- 
tion in Jackson County. Mr. 
Shannon reputedly was the 
author of Fifty-Fifty, the trad- 
ing agreement designed to 
bring peace between the rival 
factions, the Shannon Rabbits 
and the Pendergast Goats. The 
story is that the pact was ne- 
gotiated in 1902 and one of the 
first beneficiaries of it was 
Tom Pendergast, who went on the ticket that year as county marshal. The Rabbits eventually 
were subordinated to the Goats and Joe Shannon went to Congress to draw attention as an 
apostle of the old-time Jeffersonian philosophy. He died in 1943 and the Rabbit faction now 
is directed by his son, Frank P. Shannon. 


This pleasant exchange occurred between the mayor of Kansas City, Bryce B. Smith (at the 
left), and the chief critic of the city administration, Rabbi Samuel S.' Mayerberg, in May ior> 
A few minutes later, Rabbi Mayerberg was speaking before the Council, demandm7that^ 
remove from office City Manager H. F. McElroy g 


The title that H. F. Mc- 
Elroy liked was Judge, 
which he acquired when 
he was a member of the 
Jackson County Court, but 
he is remembered chiefly 
for the Country Bookkeep- 
ing system he introduced 
in the City Hall when he 
was city manager. This 
photograph was made near 
the end of his thirteen-year 
regime, which ended in 


A rare picture of T. J. Pendergast in the days when he was beginning to throw his weight 
around in politics. It dates back to the period when the future Democratic boss of Kansas 
City made his first race for office in 1902, when he was 30 years old and was elected marshal 
of Jackson County, Missouri. 


Perhaps the most familiar picture of T. J. Pendergast, posing with his daughter's wedding 
party. Unfeeling Republicans, more interested in partisan advantage than romance, made 
thousands of prints of Boss Tom's figure in top hat and cutaway and circulated them over 
the state in the campaign of 1930. In this section of the wedding picture, Mr. Pendergast is 
shown with his wife and their daughter, Marceline, who was married to W. E. Burnett, Jr., 
in 1929. 


The Kansas City panel of die mural by Thomas Hart Benton which adorns the walls of the 
House of Representatives' lounge in the Missouri Capitol at Jefferson City. Placing of Boss 
Pendergast's figure in the foreground (seated on platform) was one of the details that 
aroused critics of the mural, who stormed at both Benton and his Social History of 
Missouri in 1936-1937. 


This modest building at 1908 Main Street was the seat of political power in Kansas City 
during the thirteen years when the organization headed by Pendergast was on top. The 
Boss met his public in an office on the second floor where his Jackson Democratic Club 
occupied three rooms. The 1908 Main address still is headquarters for the town's dominant 
Democratic faction, now headed by James M. Pendergast, nephew of T. J. 


City Manager McElroy's daughter, Mary McElroy, sought the limelight. Excited by the 
drama of politics, she planned to write a book entitled "A Politician's Daughter." Her. own 
life turned into melodrama and tragedy, and left her no time for writing. 


Progress in the construction of Kansas City's new six-million dollar Municipal Auditorium 
was being observed by T. J. Pendergast and City Manager H. F. McElroy when this photo- 
graph was made in 1935. The Auditorium was a large item in the Ten- Year Bond improve- 
ment program, an undertaking that had many political complications. 


William Rockhill Nelson was publisher and editor of The Kansas City Star from 1880 to his 
death in 1915. His imprint still is large on the town and on the Star, which now is ^employee- 
owned. His domineering personality earned him the sobriquet of "Baron Bill"; his work in 
building his paper from a four-page daily to a large-scale enterprise, and his battles for civic 
improvements and political reforms made him a national figure. 


Harry S. Truman was captain and commanding 
officer of Battery D 2 lapth Field Artillery, Thirty- 
fifth Division, in the First World War. This over- 
seas picture is a prized item in the albums of the 
Battery I) boys, a unit composed of Jackson 
County men, who became Captain Harry's original 
and warmest political supporters after the war. 


Harry S. Truman was fifty years old in 1934 when he first ran for a seat in the United States 
Senate. This picture from that period shows a dapper Truman who won handily in a 
campaign which he described as "just a lot of fun." It was in that campaign that T. J. 
Pendergast gave a show of vote-delivering power which caused political observers to hail 
him as the undisputed Missouri boss. 


The scene is a room 
in the Jackson County 
Courthouse, the time is 
1933 and the men are 
Harry S. Truman, pre- 
siding judge of the 
County Court, and Bat- 
tle McCardle. Mr. Tru- 
man established n rec- 
ord in the Court that 
started him up the polit- 
ical ladder. 


It was a dull day, commercially speaking, in the Truman and Jacobson haberdashery, at 
Twelfth Street and Baltimore Avenue, Kansas City, when this photograph was made, but 
the political prospect was interesting. Harry Truman (in the foreground) opened this store 
in partnership with his war buddy, Eddie Jacobson, soon after he returned from war service. 
The store failed in 1921. 


One of the last pictures of Tom Pendergast is this photograph showing him at a table in the 
United States Federal District Court in Kansas City, where he waited while his counsel and 
the prosecutor discussed details of his case. In May, 1939, he was sentenced to fifteen months 
in prison for income tax evasion. 


The Goat faction of the Jackson County Democracy staged a vigorous revival in the August 
primary of 1946. President Truman contributed to the rally when he flew from the White 
"House to his home in Independence, Mo., to vote. In this scene, on the lawn of the summer 
White House, the President gives ear to remarks from his friend, Jim Pendergast. Near the 
President is Mayor Roger T. Sermon of Independence, who is talking to Mrs. Truman. 
At the extreme left is Nat T. Jackson, Independence businessman. This welcome to the 
Chief Executive was an incident in a campaign which drew national attention through the 
Pendergast group's successful effort to "purge" Congressman Roger C. Slaughter, at Truman's 


Once it was Alderman Jim, then it was Big Tom and now it is Jimmy Pcndcrgast in the order 
of things for the Goat faction of Kansas City Democrats. The nephew of T. J. Pendergast, 
who has directed affairs for the Jackson Democratic Club since the retirement of his uncle, 
poses on a corner of a desk in his political headquarters. On the wall is a portrait of President 
Truman and below it a framed check for $6 3 signed by Harry B- Truman, in payment of his 
rp46 dues. 


The foregoing words are quoted from Judge Albert L. Reeves' charge to the Federal grand 
jury in December, 1936, which started the long vote-fraud investigations that resulted in 
more than 250 convictions, fudge Reeves also instructed the Federal grand jury which 
indicted T. J. Pendergast ia 1939 for income tax evasion. 


f ense champion in an affair that made the headlines from coast to coast, 
This was the celebrated so-called Bridge Murder trial of the era of bath- 
tub gin and sophistication. The principal was an attractive young 
matron, Mrs. Myrtle A. Bennett, who was charged with shooting and 
killing her husband, John G. Bennett, in September, 1929, a few months 
before Joe Hershon participated in the holdup and murder that ended 
his brief career. The fatal bridge game was played in the Bennett apart- 
ment in the fashionable Country Club district, at the end of a gay week- 
end which the Bennetts spent with their friends, Charles and Mayme 
Hofman. Bennett was set two tricks doubled in spades on a contract 
which his wife hiked to four after he had opened with one spade and 
Charles Hofman bid two diamonds. The inevitable husband-and-wife 
quarrel followed. Bennett slapped his wife's face. She went to the bed- 
room and returned with a revolver which exploded four times before her 
husband died with two bullets in his body. 

Former Senator Reed's appearance as chief of the Bennett defense at 
the trial in 1931 stirred recollection of his dramatic conduct as special 
prosecutor of Dr. Clark Hyde in the Swop^ murder case twenty-one years 
earlier. (Judge Ralph S. Latshaw, who presided at the Clark Hyde trial, 
was also the trial judge in the Bennett case.) Asserting that this was his 
farewell as a criminal lawyer, Jim Reed demonstrated that age had not 
rusted his histrionic and legal abilities. The jury sat fascinated through a 
trial that was highlighted by a weeping act by Reed, by sharp exchanges 
between the trial judge and Prosecutor James R. Page, and by the Prose- 
cutor's angry comments in court over deviations in Charles Hofman's 
testimony between the preliminary hearing and the trial, and Mayme 
Hofman's lapses in memory on the stand. Reed gave a highly emotional 
recital as he described how Mrs. Bennett got the revolver for her hus- 
band to put in his traveling bag, as he was leaving on a business trip in 
the morning, after the bridge game; the slap; how she stumbled and 
accidentally fired the weapon twice; how her husband then mistook her 
intention, struggled to seize the revolver and shot himself in the arm pit. 
Climax was reached when the court ruled the prosecution could not in- 
troduce its star witness, a. relative of the dead man, because the Prose- 
cutor had waited to present this individual as a rebuttal witness when 
he should have been offered in direct testimony. The jury brought in a 


verdict of not guilty and some anonymous versifier closed the episode 
with these lines, which were printed in the Star: 

One spade he bid, 
Poor dud, he is dead, 
She sits in widow_'s weeds; 
He went down one, 
She got her gun 
One spade is all he needs. 

The futile effort to arouse the interest of politicians and the public in 
the fate of Joe Hershon went on until January, 1932, when Rabbi Mayer- 
berg went to the county jail to spend the last night in the cell with the 
condemned man. From midnight to five-thirty o'clock in the morning, 
the Jewish teacher and the prisoner prayed together, played card games, 
exchanged jokes with the jailer and ate the lordly meal that the state 
provides just before it takes a life. The Rabbi walked to the gallows with 
Hershon and the two men recited the Sh'ma together in Hebrew and 
English just before the trap was sprung- 

There is a memorial to Joe Hershon in the form of a little paper written 
by Rabbi Mayerberg the day after the execution. It may be found in the 
files of the Star, which published it, and it has been preserved in a book of 
Mayerberg lectures that was issued in 1944 under the title, Chronicle of 
an American Crusader. The document is of interest today to anyone who 
appreciates forceful rhetoric, lucid thinking and humanitarian senti- 
ments: It is illuminating to anyone who desires to understand why 
America produces Joe Hershons and why its system of law is so ineffec- 
tive in restraining evildoers. It should have made more of an impression 
than it did some fifteen years ago, for it contained a call to a political battle 
which soon followed* 

"Before judging the enemy of society," the Rabbi wrote, "the state 
must judge its own imperfections. But even in an imperfect social order 
I believe that crime can be held in check, not by severity of the penalty, 
but by the speed and certainty with which justice is rendered. Let society 
rid itself of corrupt police departments, public officials and conniving 
politicians; let men of courage and ability be elected to our benches; let 
the legal procedure be rid of all the technicalities by which testimony 
is hidden or perverted or delays are manufactured; in brief, establish a 


swiftly moving machinery of justice in America and the criminal will 
surrender to society."* 

Rabbi Mayerberg decided to take the reform initiative in the political 
arena shortly after Home Rule came to Kansas City in mid-March, 1932, 
in a surprise package from the Missouri Supreme Court, which threw 
out the law under which the Kansas City Police Department operated. 
The ruling climaxed the second mandamus action which the Police 
Board had instituted to force the city government to accept its estimate 
of funds required by the department. Reversing its previous ruling, the 
court held, five to two, that the old statute covering the Kansas -City 
police was unconstitutional because it delegated to the Police Board the 
legislative power to tax, "in violation of the organic law." McElroy de- 
clared he was equal to the emergency and had the Council rush through. 
a measure authorizing the appointment of a police director. He named 
as director E. C. Reppert, who opened his regime with the announce- 
ment that he would concentrate on the suppression of major crimes and 
the cultivation of polite manners among traffic cops. 

The need for more efficiency in dealing with big-tim'e criminals was 
clear to all citizens and was doubly emphasized at this time by a case 
that created a sensation extending over more than six months. The crime 
was a kidnaping that occurred a few months before the inception o 
Home Rule and was followed by a dramatic manhunt and a prosecution 
that were carried to a successful conclusion by Democratic l%w enforcers. 
Victim of the abduction was Mrs. Nell Donnelly, wealthy dress manu- 
facturer, who was seized in front of her South Side home at dusk on 
December 16, 1931. She was in her Lincoln sedan, which was driven by 
her Negro chauffeur, when the car was stopped in the driveway. Both 
Mrs. Donnelly and the chauffeur were spirited away. Former Senator 
Reed, a neighbor of the Donnellys, hurried to their home and took charge 
of the rescue effort. Mrs. Donnelly was both financially and politically 
important," and very important to Jim Reed he married her two years 
later, following Mrs. Donnelly's divorce from her husband and the 
death of Reed's first wife. 

* From Chronicle of an American Crusader by Samuel S. Mayerberg, copyright 1944 by 
Samuel S. Mayerberg, published by the Bloch Publishing Company. By permission of 
the author. 


Police ran in circles without a clue to the kidnapers. They were so 
desperate for a lead that detectives and Senator Reed finally decided to 
listen to a clairvoyant who offered her services. The crystal ball indicated 
that Mrs. Donnelly was "down a slope" somewhere and the detectives 
rode around town looking vainly for a likely slope. 

Johnny Lazia, the North Side regulator, called out his scouts tb look 
for the missing lady and her abductors. Evidently the shadow of the Goat 
power fell across die kidnap hideaway with telling effect for the kid- 
napers freed Mrs. Donnelly and her chauffeur after thirty-four hours 
without collecting the seventy-five thousand dollars ransom they had de- 
manded. The prisoners, who had been held in a place about an hour's 
drive from the city, were released at four o'clock in the morning near an 
all-night cafe on the Kansas side. The bandits left Mrs. Donnelly with a 
towel over her head and the laundry mark on that towel served as an 
important clue in the investigation that followed. One member of the 
outlaw gang was pursued to Johannesburg, South Africa, and returned 
to Kansas City. He was given a life term in prison along with one of his 
accomplices. Jim Reed closed his career as a criminal lawyer with a flour- 
ish by serving as special prosecutor in the trial of a third member of the 
gang, who drew a long prison term. 

This example of swift justice was too exceptional to allay widespread 
concern over the Home Rule policy on crime control. Rabbi Mayerberg's 
dismay over the new order grew until it forced him into explosive action 
late in May, 1932. The immediate background of his blast included two 
speeches by public officials. One came from McElroy, who declared be- 
fore a meeting in a church that he regarded the last election results as a 
mandate to carry on a partisan administration, which was his way of 
warning ministers to stop their complaints about violations of non- 
partisan provisions of the charter. The second incident was an address 
by County Attorney Page, who called attention to the alarming crime 
conditions and fixed the blame on the political system. Mayerberg's re- 
action to those two, speeches, combined with the agitation over the ex- 
femive changes which the Democratic administration was making in the 
personnel of the Police Department, set off the crusade of 1932. 

It began without advance warning or fanfare of any kind when the 
Rabbi went before the Government Study Club, a woman's organize 


tion, for a noonday address in a downtown hoteL Much of its effect might 
have been lost if a new reporter for the Star had not chanced to observe 
Mr. Mayerberg going to the meeting. Ordinarily a session o the club 
was not something ^newspaperman made a point of attending, but the 
cub took a chance because he had heard the Rabbi speak on cultural 
matters and was impressed by his erudition and eloquence. What he 
heard this time was a flaming assault on the machine. Reporter Alvin S. 
McCoy, later a political writer and war correspondent for the Star, got 
the details right and his story made a smash in the afternoon edition. 

'Tfou've turned your city over to a gang and given it into hands o 
crooks and racketeers because you are asleep,** Mr. Mayerberg informed 
the Government Study ladies. "The time has come for action. The time 
for study has passed/' 

One of the Rabbi's main points was that the City Manager had vio- 
lated Section 124 of the city charter, which made it illegal to solicit a 
member of a political party for campaign funds or to discharge city em- 
ployees because of their political affiliations. Repeated violations of that 
section had been made in the "lug" openly placed on city employees for 
campaign funds and in the wholesale firing of Republicans from the 
Police Department. Penalty for the violation was a fine of fifty dollars 
to five hundred dollars and a sentence up to six months in jail. The idea 
that any such action would be taken was, of course, ridiculous. That was 
what Mayor Smith and members of the Council said. With their boss 
away on vacation, the councilmen tried to suppress the Rabbi with ridi- 
cule. Mr. Mayerberg developed heat and elaborated his charges as he 

went along. 

A few days later he met with the Ministerial Alliance, representing 104 
Protestant churches, set the preachers cheering with his oratory and drew 
them into the fight. 

"If the churches of this city have not developed a laity that will rise up 
and correct conditions, they have no right to exist," the Rabbi declared* 
"I am not discounting the wide ramifications of political racketeering 
and am -fully aware of the difficulties that will be found right in the con- 
gregations of the various churches." 

A day later the Rabbi's own board had a serious talk with him and the 


president made it plain that Mr, Mayerberg was representing himself 
privately and not B'Nai Jehudah. He didn't slow down, however. 

As the revolt grew, the City Council, heeding the advice of Mayor 
Smith and Councilman Gossett, decided that it would be a good idea to 
go through the face-saving motion of granting the Rabbi a hearing. It 
allowed him ten minutes; and responded with a resolution affirming its 
complete faith in the City Manager and declared the Rabbi's charges 
were not worthy of further attention. 

Leaving the Council chamber, Mr. Mayerberg was stopped by John 
Lazia, whom he had been calling a gangster, a racketeer and an ex- 
convict. Mr. Lazia was then a poised, well-groomed man of thirty-five 
and at first glance he suggested the conservative businessman more than 
anything else. He deliberately affected an air of mildness that was height- 
ened by his rimless eyeglasses, an amiable smile and his gum-chewing 

The North Side leader seemed more amused than angry when he 
accosted Mayerberg. His first remark was that he wanted to meet the 
"second Moses" and he shook hands with the churchman. "You didn't 
get very far, did you, Rabbi?" he added. 

Rabbi Mayerberg hurried away and if he was disturbed by the en- 
counter it was not evident from his subsequent activities. The battle 
gathered momentum as Mayerberg turned in every direction to find 
allies. He went to confer with the attorney general of Missouri in an 
effort to have the state institute ouster proceedings against McElroy and 
his police director. Increasingly bold charges were made against McElroy, 
Pendergast and Lazia when he went before various clubs and churches 
to speak. He spoke of "the noble gentleman at Nineteenth and Main 
streets, the big shot who cracks the whip," and made a thinly veiled refer- 
ence to a powerful banker who was allied with the Boss. Widening the 
range o his attack, he even called for the ouster of County Attorney Page 
after Page refused to consider instituting ouster proceedings against the 
City Manager, 

A bodyguard was formed for the Rabbi by Colonel Charles Edwards, 
former police chief, together with one of the police officers who had been 
let out in the Home Rule shake-up. The Mayerberg car was equipped 
with bulletproof glass and was fired on once. His telephone rans- often 


with whispered threats of character assassination, physical mutilation and 
death. He lived in a daily and nightly melodrama. For a time he was 
aroused at three o'clock each morning by a call from a man who identified 
himself as a gangster, called himself Pal, and offered the Rabbi informa- 
tion and tips in his investigation. 

Ministers organized a Charter League, with Mayerberg at its head, to 
direct a recall movement. They started to raise funds and the Rabbi went 
to the City Hall to examine records. He asked to see the last city audit 
that had been made in the McElroy administration and was told that 
none existed. He demanded to see the city payrolls, which he wanted for 
evidence of payroll padding, and asked for the personnel records to check 
on the new police officers being employed by the city. He was given the 
run-around and openly defied by the city officials until he sought a writ 
of mandamus from Judge Darius A. Brown, a Republican member of 
the Circuit Court bench. After taking that action, Rabbi Mayerberg 
called on the man he was fighting in the City Hall. When their interview 
ended, he offered his hand to the City Manager. 

"I don't care to shake your hand," said McElroy. 

"My hand is clean while you have violated every provision of the 
charter except that providing for the drawing of your salary," Mayerberg 

"That's all," Judge McEkoy barked. "We're through." 

"But we're not through. We've just begun." 

"All right," concluded the City Manager, waving his visitor to the door 
of his office. "On your way." 

The Charter League took the last line of the interview for its slogan, 
"On Your Way, McElroy." 

Rabbi Mayerberg charged that as many as seventy-five ex-convicts were 
in the Police Department. When he finally was permitted to see the 
books he could not verify his charges and declared that the records were 
incomplete. The Charter League found itself shy of full documentary 
proof needed to convict. 

Agitation continued through the summer and the preachers created 
most of the uproar from their pulpits. It began to subside late in June 
when Mr. Mayerberg went to the West Coast to a Rotary convention and 
followed that with a trip to Alaska on the advice of his physicians* 


Rumors that he had abandoned the fight under the combined pressure 
of his board and personal intimidation were widely circulated. The Rabbi 
issued a public statement denying that he was leaving the city perma- 
nently or was on an extended leave of absence. When he returned in July 
he sought to revive the Charter League movement but it expired not long 
thereafter. Many influential citizens applauded his efforts but no im- 
portant leaders outside the church and women's club circles stepped 
forward publicly to battle for him. The ministers were virtually isolated, 
for all practical purposes, in the fight against the machine, and the 
political organization was too strong, and the details of its operations 
were too well buried, for a successful assault against it at this time. The 
Star sympathetically reported the ministerial revolt, and its news cover- 
age was a large factor in making the furor, but the newspaper did not do 
any crusading on its own account and made editorial reservations on the 
Mayerberg impeachment of McElroy's personal integrity and efficiency. 

Fear of reprisals kept many sympathizers of the churchmen from join- 
ing the parade, but another factor was a strong anticrusade sentiment 
in the business community. Businessmen and the regular politicians 
didn't relish the idea of working with ministers the parsons were too 
difficult to control, too full of spirit, too unrealistic. The prudent prac- 
tical men stood back and let the amateurs run the show. They took the 
common-sense Chamber of Commerce view, which was aptly expressed 
by its official representative at a meeting of the Round Table of Club 
Presidents on the Mayerberg challenge. 

<( It is all right for the churches to go on preaching the old-fashioned 
gospel and building up a moral laity," said the Chamber man, "but when 
it comes to ministers fighting politics, I just can't follow them." 


POLITICIANS, Tike professional gamblers, are among the least superstitious 
of men. True, they carry rabbit's feet and other tribal charms, read signs, 
study portents, make prophecies, feel the finger of destiny constantly 
Upon them and appear to be congenially optimistic, but on the whok 
they place small dependence on the hocus-pocus of their trade. Wl^ile 


others are planting potatoes in the dark of the moon, the politicians and 
gamblers are diligently studying the form sheets, watching straws in 
the wind, listening for rumbles of ground swells, observing the condi- 
tion of the grass roots and otherwise basing their calculations on ob- 
servable and predictable factors in any given situation. They are, in a 
word, the scientists of our age and all of them have a system. The one 
point where they share the common reverence for Lady Luck is in their 
sublime confidence in their various systems, unfortunately an attitude 
that contains a large element of superstition. They get in the habit of 
thinking that their special knowledge of trends, percentages and aver- 
ages makes them the favorites of fortune, and they often end by believing 
that they know all the angles and have a sure thing. The sad result is 
that the system players, the smart operators and wise citizens, are fre- 
quently the victims of the deadliest of all maladies known to sportsmen 
overconfidence and occasionally they become the greatest suckers in 
the lot. 

Tom Pendergast ha'd ample reason to believe that he was the darling 
of fortune but he worked hard for most of the breaks that came his way 
and for a long time kept his feet on the ground, soberly sizing up the 
circumstances that combined to produce fortuitous events and not press- 
ing f his luck too hard. In his horse racing and betting he early exhibited 
a tendency to plunge, and this adventurousness became manifest in his 
political activities when the growing size of the stakes and the nature of 
the competition required him to move with increasing daring. Boldness 
was one of his characteristics even in the days when he was feeling hi$ 
way. His gambler's instinct naturally became stronger as repeated success 
increased his confidence in his system. 

Events moved with a steadily quickening pace when Pendergast en- 
tered on his largest operations in the 1930'$. In 1932, while McElroy, 
Lazia and the Council were putting down the Mayerberg revolt in Kan- 
sas City, the Boss made his largest gains in the Missouri arena. In f act,, 
he made such a splash as the supreme Missouri boss and as a figure of 
national consequence that sight was lost of several unfavorable portents 
for the Goat overlord. 

Chance conspired with the Democratic politicians to give Pendergast 
unprecedented influence over the Missouri delegation in the national 


House of Representatives in 1932. This was an unexpected by-product 
of the 1930 census, which revealed a growth and a shift in the Missouri 
population from farm to city and called for a redistricting of the state. 
Pendergast had been a potent factor in producing a Democratic majority 
in the state Legislature in 1930, and that majority approved a redistricting 
bill which the Republican governor vetoed, denouncing the measure as a 
plain gerrymander. The parties then fell into a protracted quarrel over 
the problem and the deadlock continued until it was seen that the re- 
districting could not be made in time for the congressional elections of 
1932. The result was that the congressional candidates were voted on by 
the state at large instead of by districts. Thus every Democratic candi- 
date for Congress who hoped to be nominated had to have the big Jack- 
son County majority and Pendergast's indorsement. They all called 
hopefully at 1908 Main Street. 

Fate or chance was very busy in that campaign of 1932. Death inter- 
vened to place the selection of the governor directly in Pendergast's 
hands. Leading candidate in the campaign was Francis M. Wilson of 
Platte City, who won the Democratic nomination with Pendergast's in- 
dorsement. Although he was a machine politician and a personal friend 
of Pendergast, he had built up wide popular prestige as a representative 
of the original Missouri Democracy, a true son of the Kingdom of the 
Platte. Missourians were delighted with his high-flown oratory and his 
poetical effusions on the natural beauties of their state. They liked the 
way he looked and talked. They called him the Red Headed Peckerwood 
of the Platte he had red hair and freckles and found he combined 
democratic informality, dignity, humor, sentiment and statesmanly 
qualities in about equal proportions. Facing the certain prospect of elec- ' 
tion to the governorship he died a few weeks before the final balloting. 

Selection of Wilson's successor on the ticket was made by the Demo- 


cratic State Committee, which Pendergast dominated, and the choice 
was unanimous. The call went to Guy Brasfield Park of Platte City, a 
Ettle-known country lawyer and Circuit judge. Park's chief points as a 
politician were his party regularity and his devotion to the memory of 
Francis Wilson. It was obvious that he would be a faithful organization 
man during his term as governor and that his feeling about Wilson 
would make him doubly grateful to the Kansas City boss for the honor 


he received. During his four years in Jefferson City the State Capitol 
was popularly known as Uncle Tom's Cabin. 

Signs that Pendergast was beginning to overreach himself and that his 
phenomenal good luck was running out were given in this same cam- 
paign, in which he backed an unsuccessful candidate for the United States 
Senate. Tom's choice was Charles M. Howell, a Kansas City lawyer. 

Candidate Howell was defeated for the nomination by Bennett Champ 
Clark of Bowling Green, son of the famous Champ Clark, who had 
represented Missouri in Congress as speaker of the House and was a 
leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912* 

The crosscurrents of machine politics manifested themselves in this 
competition when the Kansas City organization's elder statesman, Jim. 
Reed, a former law partner of Howell, gave his support to Clark. His 
commitment to the Bowling Green man antedated the 1932 contest for 
he was a friend of Bennett Clark's father. Reed had placed Champ Clark 
in nomination at the Baltimore Convention where the Missourian was 
the favorite until Bryan stampeded the delegates for the dark horse^ 
Woodrow Wilson. Bennett Clark later was to work alternately with and 
against the Kansas City organization, but his principal effect on Pender- 
gast was depressing. His successful race against Pendergast's senatorial 
candidate classed as an upset, and the Howell-Clark episode served in 
every way to illustrate the hazards and uncertain elements lying in the 
path of the city Boss when he stepped beyond his home grounds and be- 
gan to spread himself. 

The cooling of relations between Pendergast and Reed, which eventu- 
ally led to a break, started with the Bennett Clark raid. This was one 
of the strange turns in the operation in which the Kansas City boss tried 
to keep a Reed-for-President movement alive at the same time that he 
attempted to send Howell to the Senate. He stood with Reed when his 
political judgment must have told him that he wasn't doing himself any 
good, and then found the Stormy Petrel opposing his Senate candidate 
after the Reed-for-President boom flopped. 

Reed's presidential hope was a long shot which the Pendergast family 
backed heavily. If they won, they would be kingmakers and national 
figures for all time. If they lost, it did not for long appear that they would 
be out anything but the time and money that they could well afford. 


Pendergast's promotion for Reed in '32 was the climax of an eight- 
year presidential build-up. Or rather it was the anticlimax o 1928, when 
the Missourian was believed to have some chance as a compromise choice 
i anything happened to discourage Al Smith from making a second bid 
for the nomination. The Kansas Citians put on a colorful show for their 
hero at the Houston Convention, but when the shouting was over all 
they had to show for their efforts was an unused campaign song. 

Bound by ironclad instructions to stay with Reed until he released 
them, the Missourians held out for Jim until they missed a chance to get 
seats on the Al Smith bandwagon and Pendergast expressed the general 
mood of the delegation when he threatened to knock the blocks off of a 
couple of Smith men who tried to wrest the Missouri standard from 
Big Tom's nephew, Jimmy Pendergast. 

As the time for the national convention of 1932 approached, it was 
seen that the Kansas City boss was following a lost cause with Reed and 
missing the chance to put himself high in favor with the winner. The 
backing of a favorite son candidate did not ordinarily jeopardize a party 
leader's position with the successful candidate, but the opposition to 
Franklin D. Roosevelt that came from Kansas City went deeper than 
the usual pre-convention rivalry. Reed did not conceal his hostility toward 
Woodrow Wilson's old assistant secretary of the Navy. The difference 
had its origins in the conflicts of the Wilson period and in a basic philo- 
sophical difference. Reed saw the New Deal trend in Roosevelt's admin- 
istration as governor long before it was recognized by the general public, 
and he talked darkly of Socialistic and Communistic heresies that were 
spreading over the country. He was in the vanguard of the Stop Roose- 
velt movement, and also served as the rearguard. Reed went to Texas to 
confer with the Lone Star State's favorite son, John N. Garner, but Gar- 
ner kept himself in a position to trade with either 'Roosevelt or the hated 
McAdoo of California, and Reed faced the prospect of standing alone in 
the convention with a divided Missouri delegation. 

To keep Missouri in the Reed column, Tom Pendergast staged the 
most spectacular state convention show in Missouri's political history. 
An army of five thousand Jackson County Goats and Rabbits descerjded 
oa St. Louis. Behind the scenes, Pendergast broke the hearts of a" 
couple of, important individuals entertaining gubernatorial and sena- 


torial ambitions, shaped the party platform and dictated the selection o 
delegates to the National Convention. He named the Big Eight the 
delegates at large but for all his intimidating force, was not able to get 
a full delegation pledged to Reed in a satisfactory manner. Outstate 
Democrats and some St. Louis Democrats remembered how Reed had re- 
fused to release the Missouri delegation at the Houston Convention in 
time to make any hay with the Al Smith contingent, and they balked at 
an ironclad instruction for Reed at Chicago in 1932. The best that the 
Missouri boss could do was to obtain an agreement for the entire delega- 
tion to vote for Reed in the early balloting. Even then there were 
rumblings of protest, and it was evident that Pendergast could not keep 
the delegation together long, after the Roosevelt stampede started. 

There were signs of tension and jumpy nerves in the Pendergast party 
during the preliminaries in Jim Reed's last stand. Pendergast's temper 
flared at St. Louis in an argument with a delegate from Greene County, 
a dispute that was said to have ended with one swing of the Kansas City 
man's mighty right arm. 

George Wallace, the Star's veteran Missouri political correspondent, 
heard a report of the encounter and hurried to Pendergast's hotel room 
to verify the account. Pendergast had retired to bed when Wallace 
aroused him. Big Tom stood in the doorway and eyed the reporter in- 

"So you slugged a guy," said Wallace. 

"No, I didn't, George." 

"They tell me there's a delegate from Greene County out cold and that 
you slugged him." 

"You've got it wrong, George." 

'"Let's see your knuckles." 

Pendergast held out his fists and there were no marks on the knuckles. 

It seems that Big Tom was technically correct in his denial. He hadn't 
slugged the Greene County guy with his fist but knocked him out with 
the palm of his hand, and on blow settled the matter. As pieced to- 
gether from gossip, the story was that the quarrel started in a hotel ele- 
vator. The complete details were never 'obtained as there was no official 
investigation. It is said that the police were called but beat a hasty re- 
treat back to headquarters when they learned the identity of the winner. 

206 - TOM'S TOWN 

No one was disposed to bring charges or willing to be quoted, and the 
story remained one of the little-known tales of King Tom's biggest con- 
vention show. 


A SPECIAL TRAIN- carrying some four hundred Kansas City Goats and 
Rabbits arrived in Chicago the night of June 26, 1932. The travel-stained 
Missourians were weary from a day-long effort to make a loud noise over 
the more than four hundred and fifty miles from the Heart of America 
to the Windy City, but they immediately started capering and shouting 
to let the world know that the Jim Reed party was in town. They arrived 
at a moment when the Reed cause looked hopeless, but were determined 
to show at least that the Jackson County spirit was awesome and in- 

In the succeeding days the Jackson County politicians continued to 
whoop it up while their great Roman grimly but vainly tried to hold 
back the Roosevelt tide in the hotel rooms and on the Convention floor. 

Pendergast beat down all arguments that Missouri, by refusing to reach 
an understanding with Roosevelt, was missing a golden chance to cast the 
deciding vote on a presidential nomination. Tom based his stand entirely 
on personal loyalty. 

"I am here for my friend, Senator Reed/* he said. "For forty years we 
have been friends." 

At one stage of the controversy in the Missouri delegation, Big Tom 
took exception to some things that were said by L. J. Gauldoni of St. 
Louis. He moved menacingly toward Gauldoni but the St. Louis man 
was too nimble for the aging Kansas City boss, removing himself 
from harm's way. 

Sam Fordyce, who nominated Reed, perspired under the Chicago 
Stadium lights acclaiming the man from the Heart of America as the 
Apostle of Americanism. It was the familiar convention oration except 
fdr some adroit references to Reed's record as an isolationist and his ul- 
tra-conservative ideas of the correct way to handle the depression. 

*lf you want the Democratic Party to be suspected o radicalism, com* 


munism, socialism, do not nominate bin," Sam needlessly advised the 

Missouri's thirty-six votes were cast for Reed on the first ballot, but 
twelve of the thirty-six shifted to Roosevelt before the totals were an- 
nounced. Reed picked up eleven Oklahoma votes from Alfalfa Bill Mur- 
ray's delegation on the third ballot, reaching his top figure of thirty- 
three. Tom Pendergast still stood fast with his friend and waited for the 
signal that would release the entire Missouri delegation to the winner. 

Reed sat in the Missouri section, surrounded by his faithful followers^ 
glumly watching a Roosevelt demonstration that roared and swirled 
around him. A cigar was clenched in his teeth, his face was set in stub- 
born lines and the old eagle look was in his eyes. Few persons noticed 
the silvery haired, commanding figure in the Missouri group. This was- 
the last convention in which he would appear, the end of his political 
career, the beginning of the political exile in which he would spend his 
last days. Ten years earlier he had fought back from a decree of exile 
which Wodrow Wilson sought to impose on him. The shadow of Wil- 
son was present in the Chicago Stadium when Reed was humbled and 

Breckenridge Long, the Missourian who carried the banner for 
Woodrow Wilson against Jim Reed in the struggle over the League of 
Nations, was in the Chicago Convention acting in behalf of Roosevelt. 
The friends of Wilson, Long and Roosevelt sat in stony silence when 
the nomination speech for Reed was given, and their emotions must have 
been strong indeed when the speaker declared: "One great battle in 
Senator Reed's career entitles him to an everlasting place in the Hall of 
Famehis relentless, his successful fight to keep this country from ig- 
noring Washington's warning to avoid all foreign entanglements." 

The tableau in the Chicago Stadium recalled the dramatic scene at the 
Democratic National Convention in San Francisco in 1920, when Reed 
was read out of his own party for his fight on Wilson and the League 
of Nations. Before going to San Francisco, he had been tried for dis- 
loyalty and found guilty by the Democrats of Missouri at their state con- 
vention, which voted 1070 to 490 to refuse him a seat in San Francisco as 
a delegate from his home county. The Kansas City organization gave 
him a set of credentials and sent along special pleaders like Francis M. 

2 o8 TOM'S TOWN 

Wilson to press his cause with the national party leaders. The National 
Coihmittee denied him a seat on the temporary roll call of the conven- 
tion and the Credentials Committee voted overwhelmingly to bar him. 
An outcast, branded by the President of his party as a "marplot," Reed 
faced political oblivion. It was widely expected that he would retire when 
his term in the Senate expired in 1922, but such expectations were based 
on a lack of knowledge of Reed and the Pendergasts. 

Tom Pendergast's participation in the League struggle, like his stand 
for Reed in 1932, was based on personal rather than political grounds. 

"I don't know anything about the League of Nations," he had told 
George Wallace of the Star in 1919. "But if Jim Reed says it is wrong, 
it's wrong." 

In the years between Reed's vindication battle in Missouri and the 
Chicago Convention most men had forgotten the struggle that rocked 
Missouri in the 1922 campaign and little was said of its bearing on the '32 
conflict and the events that followed. It is a story that places the city 
machine in the center of a world tragedy and illuminates the operations o 
the reactionary forces that combined to kill the Wilson dream of brother- 
hood and peace. 

The Battalion df Death was the name given to the band of Senate ir- 
reconcilables by one of its members who thrilled to the political melo- 
drama. Reed of Missouri was its flashing sword and he reached the high 
point of his oratorical effort in September, 1919, two months before the 
first vote test in the Senate, when he spoke three hours before packed 
galleries. His argument, and the whole argument of the Battalion of 
Death, was summed up when he declared: 

"Washington fought to establish the right of this .nation as a sovereign 
to control its own affairs. Woodrow Wilson counsels with the representa- 
tives of kings to transfer the sovereignty Washington gained to a league 
they will dominate. The man who is willing to give any nation or as- 
semblage of nations the right to mind the business of the American 
people ought to disclaim American citizenship and emigrate to the 
country he is willing to have mind America's business. 

*l decline to help set up any government greater than that established 
by the fathers*, baptised in the blood of patriots from the lane of Lexing- * 
ton to the f orest of the Argoane* sanctified by the tears of all the mothers 


whose heroic sons went down to death to sustain its glory and independ- 
ence the government of the United States." 

Bedlam swept the Chamber. Women screamed, a group of doughboys 
recruited for the occasion took off their steel helmets and clanked them 
together and Vice-President Marshall gave up attempts to enforce the 
Senate rule against applause. It was a well-staged show. 

In this way the people were persuaded that the interests of their na- 
tional state prohibited their meddling with novel measures intended to 
secure world peace and equality, of opportunity. 

Strategist Lodge produced a steady flow of ideas for ways to delay ac- 
tion and talk the League to death. The issue of the Monroe Doctrine was 
raised, together with the Irish Question, the Vatican Issue and the Yellow 
Peril. One of Reed's contributions to the false alarm was the bogey of 
dominance by the world's colored people. The resolution for ratification 
of the League Covenant was killed with a basketful of reservations and 
the great mischief was done a year and eight days after the first anni- 
versary of the Armistice. 

In the campaigns that followed, Wilson's friends set out to punish 
the Democrats in the Senate who had opposed the League, and Reed 
became their chief target. 

Wilson had brought the fight to Missouri in the tragicaEy interrupted 
speaking tour of the country which he undertook while the Battalion 
of Death was holding the stage in Washington. He delivered one of his 
most memorable utterances in St. Louis in the same September, 1919, 
when Reed was making his gaudy America First speech in the Senate. 
Wilson's St. Louis speech contained his prophecy of the Second World 
War and was given in the city where the Missouri conflict over the 
League issue was decided against Wilson. For Reed's own people the 
ailing War President had reserved his direct warning, declaring: 

If it [the Covenant of the League of Nations] should ever in any important 
respect be impaired, I would feel like asking the Secretary of War to get the 
boys who went across the water to fight, together on some field where I could 
go and see them, and I would stand up before them and say: 

"Boys, I told fou before you went across the seas that this was a war against 
wars, and I did my best to fulfill the promise; but I am obliged to come to you 
in mortification and shame and say I have not been able to fulfill the promise. 
You arc betrayed. You fought for something that you did not get." 


And the glory of the armies and navies of the United States is gone like a 
dream in the night, and there ensues upon it, in the suitable darkness of the 
night, the nightmare of dread which lay upon the nations before this war 
came; and there will come some time, in the vengeful Providence of God, 
another straggle in which, not a few hundred thousand fine men from Amer- 
ica will have to die, but as many millions as are necessary to accomplish the 
final freedom of the peoples of the world. 

Although St. Louis was the center of anti-League sentiment in Mis- 
souri, it produced the champion in the Show Me State fight on Reed. 
Breckenridge Long, who had been an assistant secretary o State in the 
Wilson administration, entered the senatorial race in 1922 on the* one 
issue of Reed's disloyalty to the wartime President and the wrecking of 
the League. Former President Wilson personally intervened in the 
Missouri contest, asking that Reed be defeated. "I hope and confidently 
expect to see him repudiated by the Democrats at the primaries," he 
wrote in a letter to Lon V, Stephens, a former Missouri governor. 

The prevailing notion is that the Middle Western farm and small town 
are the strongholds of isolationist sentiment. That was not the story in 
Missouri when Reed sought vindication for destroying the League. The 
Democrats o rural Missouri caught the Wilson dream and held it. Wil- 
son still is their hero. They rolled up majorities against Reed in 1922 and 
they struck another blow for Wilson two years later when they killed the 
Reed boom for President. 

The city machines of Missouri's two metropolitan centers, Kansas 
City and St. Louis, worked to save Reed, and the isolationist idea in- 
spired them to employ the technique of collaboration on a scale never 
before witnessed, for Republicans in large numbers crossed the party 
line to vote with the urban Democrats, who supported Reed. 

Senator Reed went into the race with the advantage of the popular 
fame, the personal allegiances and the organizational ties he had built 
up through more than twenty years of campaigning, facing a candidate 
who was not nearly so well known to the voters and the party men. Reed 
had a tremendous advantage in oratorical skill and he gave his greatest 
performance on the stump in this campaign. Regardless of their convic- 
tions, Missourians thrilled to a fighter who struck with daring and feroc- 
ity, and the Stormy Petrel was spectacular in his defiance before hostile 


audiences in communities dominated by Rid Us of Reed Clubs. "The 
man who is incapable of thinking for himself is too great a fool to send 
to Congress," he thundered. "The man who would take the office of 
congressman upon condition that he should vote according to the dictates 
of some other man is too contemptible to send to Congress." Listening 
to him, anyone who did not have a clear idea of the true issue involved 
would have been persuaded that Reed was being persecuted simply for 
his heroic refusal to serve as a "rubber stamp." Bridle Wise Jim suc- 
ceeded in so convincing many voters. Observers declared that he was 
one hundred thousand votes behind Breckenridge Long when the cam- 
paign opened but on election eve all agreed that the outcome was a 

The Missouri senator's opposition to Prohibition and his stand against 
the Klan also worked in his favor in the more populous centers, for these 
issues were agitating the state at the time and the cities were more dis- 
turbed over interference with their liberties by Kluxers and drys than 
they were over the peace of the world. 

Finally, Reed received substantial assistance from Nelson's old paper, 
the Star, which performed yeoman service in the crusade to save the 
country from "entangling alliances." The Star's role in the fight on the 
League stands in notable contrast to its part in the isolationist struggle 
before the Second World War, when it was one of the potent Republican 
voices raised in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt's foreign policy. One 
of the large factors in this change in position is the newspaper's present 
editor, H. J. Haskell, twice winner of Pulitzer awards for editorial work. 

Early in the League fight in the Senate, Reed called aside the Star's 
Washington correspondent, Roy A. Roberts, now its managing editor, 
and extended the Goat hand in fighting fellowship. Co-operation be- 
tween the Republican newspaper and the Democratic Senator was 
limited to the League question alone, and did not extend to the support 
of Reed in the final contest with the Republican nominee, but their 
teamwork before the nomination of 1922 marked the end o the long 
feud between Reed and the Star. 

Without the city machine and without the help he received from the 
Republicans, Jim Reed could not have survived the attack by friends o 
Wilson and the League. He won the nomination by a margin of five 


thousand votes, and what saved him was a majority of nearly twenty-five 
thousand from Jackson County. In the final election, Reed lost his home 
county by almost one thousand votes but won in the state by more than 
thirty thousand. The Republicans of St. Louis overcame the large out- 
state majorities against Reed, turning a normal sixty thousand Repub- 
lican majority into a forty-three thousand majority for the Democratic 

Thus Wilson was cheated of a victory in his last political battle for the 1 
League cause. Jim Reed went back to the Senate and the politicians took 
up their normal business of building fences and strengthening the party 
organization. By the time the situation was right for Reed's final bid 
for the Presidency, Wilson was dead, Wilson's men were scattered and 
the lightnings of the Second World War were flashing over Asia and 

It was certain that there would be no League issue at the Democratic 
National Convention and there was none, but the world disorder could 
not be stopped at the doors of the Chicago Stadium and the cause that 
Wilson represented could not end with the failure of his imperfect 
scheme for a concert of nations. The same conditions, ideas and hopes 
that produced the Fourteen Points created a large collection of problems 
for the politicians and the demand that their government undertake 
drastic measures to correct social and economic wrongs beat insistently on 
the delegates. The Stop Roosevelt men Reed of Missouri, Garner of 
Texas, Alfalfa Bill Murray of Oklahoma, McAdoo of California and the 
Tammany holdouts supporting Al Smith came to the meeting with 
their routine schemes to save the Ship of State, preserve the status quo and 
not rock the boat. But they couldn't get together and by some miraculous 
chance the nomination went to the great humanitarian among them, 
the one who believed that the people could create an order of security 
and peace. 

The climax was reached on the floor of the Chicago Convention the 
aigM of July i. Jim Reed sat in the Missouri section, chewing his cigar 
and glowering at Roosevelt delegates who left their seats to join in a 
tumultuous parade for the candidate from New York. Near him was 
Mrs. Nell Donnelly. She jealously guarded the Missouri standard for 
tt*e man who was her hero and whose bride she became eighteen months 


after the Chicago Convention. At an earlier session of the convention she 
had engaged in a spirited exchange with a St. Louis woman, Mrs. Nat 
Brown, who wanted to put the Missouri standard in a Roosevelt demon- 

"You go and sit down and think it over/* Mrs. Donnelly said to Mrs. 

"You go and sit down and think it over yourself,'* was the tart reply. 

"Well," said Mrs. Donnelly with an air of great finality, "this standard 
is not going to be moved. It would be accepted as a slight to Senator 

The standard was not moved then or for some time afterward. 

The Donnelly vigil at the Missouri standard for Reed ended shortly 
after McAdoo released the California delegation to Roosevelt on the 
fourth ballot. Tom Pendergast retired to the Convention corridors to 
confer with leaders of the delegation. The Roosevelt men in the Missouri 
delegation were impatient as Garner was about to release the Texas dele- 
gation to Roosevelt and this was the last chance to get on the band wagon. 

When the Missourians returned to the floor the entire Missouri vote 
was cast for Roosevelt, but Reed declined the honor of making the an- 
nouncement. He later accepted an invitation to address the Convention, 
and confined his remarks to his favorite topic the misdeeds of Herbert 

This was the first conspicuous manifestation xDf the incompatibility 
between the Roosevelt administration, and the Kansas City Democratic 
organization, which became pronounced in later years, when Goats with 
troubles found their influence in Washington was decidedly limited, and 
eventually saw the national administration take a leading part in investi- 
gations and prosecutions that wrecked the Pendergast machine. No one 
has seriously contended that Washington's intervention was motivated 
by personal or political differences between the national head of the 
party and the local organization, but the record plainly raises the ques- 
tion whether the anti-Roosevelt sentiment among important figures in 
the Goat company predisposed the administration to take a large and 
critical interest in Kansas City affairs at the very time when Pendergast 
was embarking on some highly dubious undertakings. 

The Boss came home from Chicago and delivered a record Jackson 

2i 4 TOM'S TOWN 

County majority for the ticket in the November, 1932, election, impress- 
ing everyone tha't he had everything under control and apparently Mr. 
Pendergast himself wasn't entirely prepared for the crisis that developed 
swiftly after the campaign that buried the Reed presidential hope. 


IF TOM PENDERGAST had not been a gambling man it is possible that he 
might never have developed into a successful political boss. On the other 
hand, his political machihe might never have smashed up if he hadn't 
been a gambling man. Gambling had been a matter of prime interest to 
Pendergast from the beginning, but it may be doubted that he had ever 
seriously considered that there were two sides to the question for him as 
well as for the public, before 1932. Up to that moment he had found 
pleasure in his association with gamblers, together with enough profit to 
convince him that the odds in this enterprise were in his favor. Starting 
then, there was a series of incidents that compelled him to consider the 
other side of the question. 

The Kansas City agitation over the gambling issue included an effort 
to impress the tolerant Goat view on the new man in the White House 
and a large part of the nation, and that ambitious undertaking began 
December 5, 1932. It started with a demonstration in Kansas City's mas- 
sive Union Station, Travelers had difficulty getting to their trains during 
one hour of that winter night because of the crowd that filled the lobby. 
Banners were raised over the heads of the throng. One sign read: "Wel- 
come back to Kansas City." Another announced; "Kansas City Has Faith 
in You." A third proclaimed: "Our Own Conrad H. Mann.'* 

Con Mann was coming home from New York, where the day before 
a Federal jury had convicted him of violating the Federal lottery laws. 
He was sentenced to five months in jail and fined twelve thousand dol- 
lars, the sentence growing out of a charity frolic, dance and lottery 
conducted through the Fraternal Order of Eagles. It was a $1,759,373.60 
party in which International Secretary Mann and the manager of the 
lottery shared $460,000 of the proceeds* 

Mr. Mana was visibly affected by the demonstration in his honor at 


the station. City Manager H. F. McElroy, who had been with him on the 
gainful visit in New York, walked beside him. They were welcomed 
by Ruby D. Garrett, city councilman and an official of the Chamber of 
Commerce, who had worked hard to organize this spontaneous tribute. 
"There are not more persons because the station lobby will not hold 
them," Mr. Mann was informed by J. E. Woodmansee, vice president 
of the Chamber, armed with a resolution from the Chamber stating its 
unshaken faith in its president. 

It might have been added that there also would have been a brass 
band if the Ministerial Alliance hadn't adopted a resolution protesting 
against the reception when plans for it were announced. The Chamber 
men then decided to dispense with music as a concession to puritan 

Kansas City was telling the world that it didn't consider gambling a 
crime. It was telling Uncle in Washington where to get off. The show at 
the station was the beginning of one of the greatest pressure campaigns 
in American history to spring a violator of the law. It was also part of 
the long and earnest educational campaign conducted by Pendergast 
and his associates to acquaint backward citizens with the ways of the 
world and the futility of attempting to suppress gambling, a crusade 
that was just entering its final phase when the Chamber's president got 
caught with a fat lottery rake-off. 

Great progress had been made in the movement to make the world 
safe for poker enthusiasts, horse book players and crap shooters, but the 
Goat statement of the Kansas City attitude still lacked a certain finality 
despite the commercial weight and official dignity of the demonstration 
for Con Mann and other activities of the right faction. The Kansas City 
boss encountered some of the most troublesome opposition to gambling 
in his own party and one die-hard in particular was that old disturber 
of the Goat peace Jim Page. In 1932, in the closing months of his six- 
year tenure as county attorney, he conducted what was popularly known 
as Jim Page's one-man war against the slot machines, or "one-arm ban- 
dits," as they were more accurately and effectionately described. This 
campaign was undertaken at a time when Page was running for elec- 
tion as Circuit judge with Pendergast's support. Since the Prosecutor 
succeeded in delivering a body blow to the Goat organization and at the 


same time managed to retain the Goat boss's backing, his performance 
was both impressive and bewildering to the onlookers. The fact that he 
was able to go ahead without more effective interference from 1908 
Main Street may have signified that Pendergast was open minde^hon the 
gambling issue, but most observers liked the simpler explanation that 
Old Hickory Page had Big Tom buffaloed. 

Mr. Page was indeed an intimidating figure when aroused, but he 
did not have Pendergast's man, Hank McElroy, bluffed. The City 
Manager happily responded to the call to battle for his master, making 
great sport in putting down the Page uprising. When the Prosecutor led 
sheriff's deputies on a series of raids, McElroy's police confiscated slot 
machines and smashed the evidence to the dismay of the Prosecutor. 
Page promoted a grand jury investigation and asked the jury to return 
fifty-seven true bills in slot-machine cases he had developed. McElroy 
appeared before the jury and argued so well against this kind of law en- 
forcement that the jury returned only two indictments, neither of them 
involving slot machines. t 

After he became a Circuit judge, Page attempted to revive the slot- 
machine prosecution and succeeded in getting his successor in the county 
attorney's office to press the charges in a justice of the peace court. His 
Honor's humiliation was made complete when the J.P., a veteran Pender- 
gast henchman, dismissed all of the cases for "lack of evidence" immedi- 
ately after Judge Page himself had testified. 

This exhibition provoked wide amusement in the town along with 
protests from numerous ministers, club ladies, P.T.A. leaders and an 
editorial writer on the Kansas City Star. Judge McElroy saw the need 
for further public instruction and, with the enthusiasm of all crusaders 
and zealots, overreached himself. The opportunity for this performance 
presented itself when the Star carried an article on the growth of the 
slot-machine industry in the town, emphasizing its effect on school chil- 
dren, who happily squandered their milk and chocolate money to watch 
the pretty cherries and lemons go around. This story was accompanied 
by a statement from the City Manager, a statement of policy combined 
with a lecture to suckers, parents and reformers which must rank as a 
major contribution to the downfall of Pendergast for it goaded the op- 
position to force a showdown on the gambling question. 


"Fm glad to see the slot machine come out in the open/* Judge McElroy 
said. "As city manager, I am looking the situation squarely in the face. 
I won't dodge. I am willing to accept responsibility. 

"The man who plays a slot machine is a sucker, pure and simple. He 
gets the thrill and the slot machine gets the money. There you are.'* 

The remainder of the brief statement had the same bluntness and 
candor of this stimulating opening. Coming quickly to the point, the 
Judge announced : 

"If there is an agitation in this city against slot machines, I will order 
their removal from the larger stores that can afford to pay for morality. 
But I will not remove them from small, independent stores. Why? Be- 
cause they are keeping small, independent stores in business. 

"Furthermore," added the City Hall's man of business, "I do not be- 
lieve slot machines corrupt children. Their parents corrupt them. Any 
child who must be reared by the police probably will turn out to be a 
police character." 

It seemed that everybody except the suckers resented having the truth 
stated about this business. Reason, logic, ridicule, disgrace and impover- 
ishment could not discourage the sportive citizens who were certain they 
would hit the jackpot on the next pull of the slot-machine levers, and 
they continued their moronic pastime while the responsible people de- 
nounced McElroy for officially admitting that the government's morals 
were no better than those of businessmen and parents. 

The City Council found it expedient to do something to restore ap- 
pearances and Councilman Gossett took the floor to proclaim that the 
government's attachment to the ideal of civic virtue was what it was be- 
fore the Council's Hired Man spoke out of turn. He sat down to a light 
round of applause after giving McElroy a tap on the wrist, asserting that 
the City Manager should at least have consulted the Council before is- 
suing a statement of policy that amounted to nullification of a city ordi- 
nance and a statute of the Grand Old State of Missouri. Councilman Gos- 
sett explained that he did not make his reprimand more severe because 
Judge McElroy was not present at the meeting to defend himself. Mayor 
Smith arose, expressed his full agreement with the Gossett sentiments, 
complimented Farmer Al on his restraint in view of the City Maix- 


ager's absence. The Council then adjourned with a feeling that the moral 
crisis had been met and mastered. 

Then, suddenly, the Pendergast organization found itself in the midst 
of a major emergency provoked by the gambling operation. 

The explosion was set off by two good Democrats, Judge Page and 
Judge Allen C. Southern, who inspired the grand jury investigations 
that made the summer and fall of 1933 an exciting time in Kansas City. 
Judge Southern made Jim Page's war on the gamblers a two-man affair 
when he issued a ringing call for an inquiry that should go to the bot- 
tom and the top of the racket industry. 

The jury went immediately to work hunting slot machines, which 
vanished with phantomlike speed and were stored in safe places for the 
duration. Undiscouraged, the jury broadened the scope of its probe to in- 
clude the monopoly in beer and beverage distribution, and the city 
buzzed with excited speculation when Johnny Lazia, the North Side 
kingpin, and Big Charley Carollo were called before the jury. 

Excitement was heightened by a move in the United States District 
Court to revive the Federal government's prosecution of Lazia for in- 
come tax evasion. Tom Pendergast had exerted all of his influence to have 
this prosecution dropped but heavy pressure for action developed after 
new public attention was directed to the case by a member of the Federal 
grand jury, who arose in open court to ask the judge what disposition 
had been made of the matter. The judge turned the question to the 
United States district attorney, and he explained that action in the case 
had been deferred on "orders from Washington." This interesting ex- 
change was followed by a message from the attorney general in Wash- 
ington which reopened the Lazia case in the late summer of 1933. 

Meanwhile, the courts of Circuit Judges Southern and Page provided 
fresh sensations. 

Pendergast himself started the Goat counteroflfensive with one of his 
infrequent interviews. This was a command performance, staged in Chi- 
cago, where the Democratic leader was visiting on political and private 
business. A reporter from the Star was summoned for an important pro- 
nouncement, and was ushered before the Boss with unusual solemnity, 
Mr. Pendergast had put on an air of remoteness and gravity to suit his 
new consequence and the nature of the occasion. With a very earnest 


manner, he announced that he had become a convert of the antislot ma- 
chine cause. The slots must go, he asserted, and at the moment they 
were being whisked out o sight by his loyal subjects. 

Kansas City's First Citizen also wanted to let his people know that he 
was thinking ahead for their moral welfare, and he took this opportunity 
to state that he was against the return of the old-time saloon and in favor 
of stringent liquor regulations upon the imminent repeal of the Eight- 
eenth Amendment. In passing, he let his competitors know just what to 
expect, asserting he would revive his wholesale liquor company when 
Prohibition ended. 

Mr. Pendergast then suggested gently that the agitation over gambling 
and racketeering in Kansas City was exaggerated. He plainly felt that he 
was a misunderstood man, and that his organization was being mis- 

"I have been around quite a bit," the Boss remarked with engaging 
modesty. "I know the ins and outs of life, know lots of people. Many 
know me and I do not want to leave any impression that does not reflect 
me as I am. 

"There are all kinds of people in a political organization, just as there 
are in the world. Among them are the best and others who take ad- 

"In recent months I have been in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago 
and other places, resorts ,and otherwise. I say there is more gambling in 
these cities in comparison than there is in Kansas City, except as may 
have existed there thirty years or more ago down on the state line in the 
Bottoms. It is the same throughout the country in every large center. 

"So far as rackets are concerned, I can say advisedly that Kansas City 
is freer from racketeering than any city its size in the country. Outside 
of the gambling and slot-machine complaints, I say that Kansas City is 
the standout city of the country so far as the protection of its city by the 
police is concerned.'* 

While the Boss in Chicago was complimenting Kansas City on the 
safety of its people, terror struck behind the scenes. Grand jury witnesses 
were threatened with reprisals in business and even with bodily injury. 
Members of the grand jury received missives and telephone calls tfelling 
them that they were jeopardizing their own lives and the safety of mem- 


bers of their families. The jury was forced to meet in secret places in 
order to escape surveillance and intimidating whispers. 

The gangster tactic that made its appearance in the fight on Rabbi 
Mayerberg had now developed into a permanent feature of machine rule, 
and would be used in the future on an increasingly larger scale. It was 
effective to a degree in the Southern jury investigation. It silenced some 
people, forced many reputable citizens into perjuring themselves before 
the jury and succeeded in concealing the evidence that was needed for the 
prosecution of the important gamblers and slot-machine managers. 

Southern's grand jury returned a final report that should have pro- 
voked a wave of mass meetings, the ringing of fire bells and at least one 
riot in a liberty-loving community. Nothing quite like that happened. 
Fear, incomprehension, bewilderment and the habit of being ruled by po- 
litical machines seemed to have paralyzed the democratic will. 

There were still a few individuals who had not lost their powers of 
indignation and initiative, and the most vigorous one of this select com- 
pany at the moment was the fractious Goat, Judge Jim Page. While the 
Southern jury was preparing its devastating answer to Pendergast's 
pretty description o the Kansas City situation, Judge Page had been 
busy calling the public's attention to the larger implications of the busi- 
nessman's philosophy of tolerance for gambling, beer joints and easy 
government. He seized an opportunity to slug the City Manager and his 
system one September day when three young Italian bandits were 
brought before him for sentencing. The Judge had prepared a rather 
lengthy address for this occasion, for there was something about this 
case that distinguished it from the long list of crimes involving products 
of Little Italy on the North Side. 

"The Court is of the opinion that these three boys do not belong to the 
organized criminal gang of Italians in this city," Judge Page began. "If 
they did, they would be represented here at this time by lawyers who 
make their living off the proceeds of crime. If they didn't have the money 
to pay for that kind of lawyer, the gang would furnish it for them. 
The good Italian people of this city, and there are thousands of them, 
are fortunate in having in their community a lawyer of the character of 
Judge Benanti [the defense counsel]. 

"I do not believe," the Court continued, "that these boys ought to re- 


ceive the same punishment as the boys that are known members of the 
criminal gang in Kansas City, and protected, in my judgment, by the 
Police Department of this city. 

"The purpose of punishment is not for retribution but for the purpose 
of preventing others from committing crimes if it can be done. We have a 
condition in this city, which these three boys, as bad as they are, are not 
responsible for, entirely. We have at the head of our city government a 
man who openly permitted violation of the law and made a public state- 
ment to the newspapers he was going to continue to do it and what could 
the people do about it? Now, so long as we have at the head of our gov- 
ernment a man of this kind, and a man at the head of our Police De- 
partment of the kind we have, how can we expect boys like these to have 
the respect for the law that they ought to have? I do not believe that the 
Court ought to impose the highest penalty on boys of this kind on ac- 
count of the condition which has been brought about by some of the law 
enforcement agencies of our city and our county." 

Old Hickory had much more to say in the same vein on the govern- 
ment's immorality, the North Side rule of terror and the public's apathy 
before he let the young desperadoes off with twenty years each in prison. 

McElroy's only reply to this blast was a typical McElroyism. "I refuse 
to get into an endurance contest with a skunk," said the pride of Dunlap, 

"All law-abiding citizens would rather smell the odor of a skunk than 
that of his coffee grounds and rotten police administration," Page re- 

The Judge was profoundly dismayed by the public's attitude in this 
struggle. "The community generally gets the kind of law enforcement 
that it wants and earns," he remarked to the Prosecutor. "The people 
can't sit still and delegate this to the public agents. -The people themselves 
are responsible. When they are going to wake up to the situation, I do not 
know, but it is time they ought to begin to help us. If they don't begin 
pretty soon it is going to be too late." 

When the Southern jury returned its challenging report, Page ob- 
served the slight agitation that it caused and struck again with a call for 
another grand jury to complete the work of the first investigation. His 


charge to that jury was his supreme effort to put some spunk in a de- 
moralized people. 

Instructing the jury to "go after crime" in all of its phases, the Judge 
observed with broad emphasis: "He who violates the law is neither 
Democrat nor Republican. He is a criminal." 

Page's deepest scorn was reserved for the "substantial businessmen'* 
who appeared before the Southern grand jury and gave false testimony 
on slot-machine operations. 

"I hope," the Judge said, "that you will be able to return indictments 
for perjury against some of these so-called businessmen and goofl citi- 
zens of this city. They are not good citizens. They are not businessmen. 
They are racketeers just the same as the organization or other members 
of the organization who are engaged in other rackets/* 

Warning the jury that they could assistance from the Police 
Department but that they could count on threats of violence against 
them and their families, Judge Page closed with this challenge: 

"If something should happen to one of us, we would only be making 
the supreme sacrifice that thousands of American boys made a few 
years ago in order that this might be a country fit for you to bring up 
your families, and fit for your homes, and that you might sit around 
your fireside without fear of anyone." 

The jury took elaborate measures to cloak its operations and shield 
witnesses, but the organization's espionage system was very effective and 
the terror came out again. While the fear spread, the slot machines were 
trundled off once more by the syndicate's spooks and many gambling 
places closed. At the same time the principal game operators made a bold 
demonstration of contempt for the investigation and thirty-eight of the 
gambling spots ran full blast at the height of the probe. 

Nothing untoward happened to the grand jurors for daring to do their 
duty and as the investigation progressed the citizens called as witnesses 
began to show more courage. The jury had been carefully selected and 
it included men prominent in the business and professional life of the 
city. Its work, together with that of the Southern grand jury, was the be- 
ginning of the belated revolt against Pendergastism in the business 

Sixty-one indictments were returned by the jury, which adjourned 


after meeting for thirty days. Those indictments made hardly more than 
a dent in the rackets but the jury's final report became a key text in the 
furious city campaign that came a few months later. The approaching 
political uprising was signalled in many ways in the grand jury work. 
Foreman of the Page jury was an important Democrat, Russell F. 
Greiner, who became a leader in the 1934 campaign against Pendergast. 
Another member of the jury, D. S. Adams, figured in that battle as a 
successful Council candidate. Alex S. Rankin, a Democratic stalwart with 
prestige in both business and political life, joined the antimachine lead- 
ership and ran for a seat in the Council. While the Page grand jury was 
meeting the Republican Party showed new signs of life. Although the 
next election was months distant, crowds turned out for a party rally 
with campaign-time fervor, and were not chilled when their leaders 
offered to join any group irrespective of party label to fight the machine. 
The significance of this co-operative gesture was underscored by the 
activities of a strange outfit known as N.Y.M., or the National Youth 
Movement, which had just come into the open after a long underground 
campaign. For months the Goats had been disturbed by the work of this 
secret organization, which dropped the disguise with the announcement 
that it would enter a ticket in the next city campaign. 

While the forces of opposition were coalescing and beginning to de- 
velop a leadership, Boss Tom was busy with both local and national 
affairs. In his travels he discovered that the Kansas City struggle was at- 
tracting wide attention and that the unfavorable reaction to the gambling 
and racket development had spread from Kansas City to Washington. 
He was jolted by this rude trend when he was in the national capital 
on business, and incidentally to intervene personally on behalf of Con 
Mann in the Eagles lottery case. Mr. Pendergast seemed to have been 
unprepared for this humiliating experience, as he had every right to be, 
for the campaign to get a presidential pardon for Mr. Mann was a 
marvelous example of the machine process's efficiency on the higher 
levels. Appeals in behalf of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce 
leader were signed by the governors of eight states, senators from ten 
states, eighty-one congressmen, four national labor leaders, seventeen 
judges in five states, thirty lawyers in six states, and fifteen bankers in 
four states. Boss Pendergast sent some of his ablest pleaders to confer 


with the national party leaders and the Justice Department. They argued 
that Mr. Mann was entitled to special consideration not only because of 
his previous record and his standing in the Eagles and in society, to say 
nothing of his relations with the Goat organization, but also because a 
Federal jury had acquitted former Senator James J. (Puddler Jim) 
Davis on similar charges growing out of a lottery in the Loyal Order of 


After these emissaries returned with unsatisfactory reports, and the 
United States Supreme Court reftised to review the evidence in the 
Mann conviction, Mr. Pendergast decided to show his formidable pres- 
ence in Washington: Accompanied by Senator Bennett C. Clark of 
Missouri, his sometime rival and ally from St. Louis, the Kansas City 
boss sought an interview with President Roosevelt and received a quick 
rebuff. The Chief Executive sent word through a secretary that he was 
unable to see the Missouri overlord, adding that it was a Roosevelt rule 
never to take up personally questions of presidential pardons. T. J. left 
hurriedly for New York to confer with Jim Farley. 

Five days before Mann was scheduled to surrender himself in New 
York to begin his term in jail, the Page grand jury returned its sensa- 
tional report, declaring that "gambling and racketeering permeate the 
entire community and could not exist without paying for protection and 
consequently going unpunished." The public was allowed to lose interest 
temporarily in the approaching martyrdom of its business and civic leader 
while it considered fresh evidence that it lived under a reign of terror, 
created to perpetuate illicit enterprises which, the jury report said, 
"will continue to flourish so long as they are cultivated by that potent 
trio, the predatory businessman, the predatory politician and purchasable 
gangster hired by the first two," 

The furor caused by the jury's report hadn't quite spent itself when 
Con Mann departed by plane for New York. Machine leaders in the City 
Hall and the Chamber of Commerce appeared to be more depressed over 
the loss of their Get It Done man than they were by the grand jury's 
indictments and denunciations. 

Mr. Mann surrendered to the United States marshal in New York City 
November 15. He wept when the judge signed his commitment papers 
and waited in the Federal Building nearly four hours before going to 


the House o Correction. He had been checked in as a prisoner when he 
received word that he was a free man again. 

The pressure to make justice for the Eagle equal that for the Moose 
moved President Roosevelt to grant a pardon on the jail sentence but 
the. Chief Executive waited until Mann was actually in custody before 
announcing this action, and left him under a fine, which was reduced 
from twelve to ten thousand dollars. Leaving the House of Correction, 
Mr. Mann joyfully made preparations to set out for home, sending word 
ahead that he was returning by plane. 

This pathetic vindication was good enough for the boys in the City 
Hall and the Chamber, putting them in a mood of high elation. The City 
Manager hailed Roosevelt's action as one of the great decisions of the 
ages, and there was happy talk of a reception for Con that would make 
the earlier one at the Union Station a colorless affair by comparison. 
Plans for a rousing homecoming demonstration were abruptly aban- 
doned when the home newspapers carried a brief item announcing that 
Mrs. J. Howard Hunt, corresponding secretary of the Parent-Teacher 
Council of Kansas City, had sent the Chamber a letter asking that there 
be no public ceremony for the returning chief. The Council members 
unanimously adopted the request, which explained that no personal feel- 
ings were involved but "as a child welfare organization, we feel that all 
good citizens should observe and respect the law. It is impossible for 
parents to instil in their children right principles of citizenship when 
prominent citizens who have disregarded the law are received with 
public acclaim." 

The weather caused Mr. Mann's plane to be grounded on the way 
home. He returned several days later, without fanfare. The games were 
reviving when he came home, and everything seemed to be going on as 
before, but the words of the P.T.A. ladies echoed loud through the turbu- 
lent months that followed. 


THE CAMPAIGN which brought the first full-scale political assault on the 
Pendergast machine reached its climax in February and March of 1934. 

226 . TOM'S TOWN 

Although it failed of its immediate purpose, it plunged the community 
into a state of continuous uproar for the next six years, during which 
the principal aims o the challengers were realized. The turmoil has not 
entirely settled even to this day. 

Among the many interesting factors in this uprising, there were two 
that shared the principal attention and produced the major damage to 
the Democratic organization. One was the Kansas City Star's return to 
all-out war on the Pendergasts, crusading in the old Nelson spirit. The 
other was the N.Y.M., the National Youth Movement. The Star's par- 
ticipation, which had the most depressing long-range effect on the Boss, 
will be detailed at some length later in the story. This section is reserved 
for the N.Y.M., which was the newest and most spectacular element of 
the Pendergast opposition. 

The battle began with young Joe Fennelly and a few contemporaries, 
whose N.Y.M. was a national phenomenon that started and ended in 
Kansas City. The "national movement" legend was designed to give 
some false prestige and mystery to the maiden venture in politics of the 
youthful South Side amateurs. Their movement got under way nearly 
two years before the test at the voting booths in '34. 

N.Y.M. started with a membership of five young persons, meeting in 
a home in May of 1932, the month when Rabbi Mayerberg entered his 
fight on the machine. The number grew to twenty-five and then to eighty 
men and women, when the group elected officers and incorporated the 
N.YJVL under the laws of Missouri. Progress at first was slow, for a good 
reason. From the Mayerberg experience, Joe Fennelly's youthful rebels 
had ample warning to proceed cautiously. They soon discovered that the 
underground approach had other advantages. It appealed to the native 
taste for melodrama and preyed on the Goats' superstitious fear of the 

Fennelly and his fellow conspirators spread the impression that they 
had the multitudes by giving members metal disks beginning with the 
number 2,301. They encouraged the notion that this was a national move- 
ment by circulating the rumor that General John J. Pershing was the 
head of it* Some Fu Manchu tactics were employed effectively in recruit- 
ing members. One of the young master's lieutenants would softshoe up to 
a young local banker, broker, advertising or real estate man, and fur- 


tively hand him ten cards to be filled out with applications of new 
members. A week later another "stranger" tapped the young banker or 
other prospect on the arm, saying: "I have called for th$ cards." The 
young banker nervously handed them over, glancing around to be cer- 
tain that no Goats were watching or listening. ^'They're all filled out, 
too," said the y. b., his forehead glistening with honest sweat of fear 
and desperation. Or maybe the sweat just indicated normal perspira- 
tion, for this was a time of drought, heat and dust in Kansas City. 

Finally, after more than a year, the N.Y.M. had four hundred mem- 
bers and their exercise had so toned them up that they came boldly into 
the open, talked of thousands of members and announced they would 
enter a nonpartisan ticket in the spring election of 1934. 

The perambulating and card-passing of the New Youth went on at a 
furious rate in the next two months and the spectacular progress of the 
revolt on the South Side was indicated in September, 1933, when more 
than a thousand men and women crowded into the ballroom of the Hotel 
Kansas Citian to hear the N.Y.M. officers explain their aims and plans. 

With the mystery removed, the machine opened a vigorous propaganda 
campaign of its own to discredit the N.Y.M. as a South Side silk-stocking 
and collegiate boy scout endeavor. For years the Democratic politicians 
had profitably exploited the difference between the North Side and South 
Side but this was to be the most illuminating exhibition of the complica- 
tion in municipal politics that was created by the old cleavage between 
the haves and the have-nots. 

The class character and ideological content of N.Y.M. were, in fact, 
pronounced. It was primarily a movement of the conservative people o 
property and it did represent a national agitation to some extent. It was 
animated not only by indignation over Pendergast corruption and oppres- 
sion, but also by fear of revolution growing out of the universal social, 
economic and political crisis then known as the Depression. 

Joe Fennelly expressed the basic concern of the N.YM. reformers, 
showing that it transcended the issue of bossism in local government, 
when he discussed the movement in an interview published in the Amer- 
ican Magazine.* 

* "Youth Goes Into Action," by Hubert Kelley, American Magazine, 1934. 


"Communism isn't a way out,*' he said. "It's a way into more diffi- 
culty. Why not begin changing things at home?" 

The magazine writer who interviewed Fennelly was Hubert Kelley, 
a former reporter on the Star, who hailed the activity in his old home 
town as < a new youth movement, concerned with things and action, 
not with words and dreams." He was impressed with its social and 
financial rating. Joe Fennelly (University of Virginia) was then a paint 
salesman headed for bigger things in business. ". . . He and his friends 
lived in the better part of their city, played golf on fashionable courses, 
attended country club dances with their young wives, motored into the 
countryside in their sport models. All had jobs, even for depression 
times. . . ." 

It was the national crisis that started the junior executives thinking 
about local government. The boys home from Princeton, Harvard and 
other good colleges began with a discussion of the Hoover policies and 
the Roosevelt revolution. Then the debate naturally grew to include 
banks and banking men, liquor," women, marriage, love and finally 
municipal government. The argufiers learned that none of them had 
read the city charter, so they got a copy and made some interesting dis- 
coveries. One of the chief points that engaged their attention was the 
bonded indebtedness set-up, particularly the provisions covering the Ten- 
Year bonds. They were amazed to learn how many millions of dollars 
they were going to have to pay off during their lifetime, and their agita- 
tion over the way this money was being spent naturally became intense. 

This concentration on the dollars-and-cents costs of machine govern- 
ment inevitably made N.Y.M. more appealing to businessmen and large 
taxpayers than to any other class, so the movement was dominated by 
the people who fear economic change and don't do much crusading with 
organized labor. 

Not all of the N.Y.M. people were collegians, however, and not all 
of the college men had the conventional South Side viewpoint. At least 
two or three of the latter were contrary individuals who didn't labor 
under the illusion that they were opposing Pendergast and Karl Marx. 
They knew very well that they were fighting American bossism and 
fascism, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. This kind of understanding 
was found in the N.Y.M. ward organization rather than in the higher 

S.J.Ray in The Kansas City Star 

North Side, South Side, All Around the Town 

The movement that brought the cleanup victory in 1940 started with the N.YJM. 
campaign of 1934. 


branches of the South Side movement. The ward workers had a better 
chance than most to get around and meet the people in all parts of townu 
They found the people on the North Side living in a bondage to the 
machine that was older and more subtle than the oppression which the 
organization recently had extended to the people of the South Side. They 
found that the machine was rooted in a society that operated on the 
basis of social and economic inequality. The machine came into being 
because it was effective in serving special interests above the common 
good, and grew until the machine itself was about to become the largest 
special interest the supreme monopoly of the system that produced it. 
When and if the South Side people could be subdued, the revolution of 
the machine would be complete. 

Unfortunately, this simple lesson had not been learned by many 
Kansas Citians in 1934, and N.Y.M. neglected to make its crusade as 
interesting to the jobless man, the union man and the Negro as it was to 
the good businessman. Quickly noting this defect in the opposition 
movement, the boss pqliticians once more staged their grotesque farce 
of fighting the battle for the masses and they were uncommonly adroit 
in playing on all the old class antagonisms and confusions. 

The significant fact was, of course, the N.Y.M. could not have pro- 
moted a broad democratic revival even if it had had more of a will to 
do so. The N.Y.M. was very young, and the political thinkers haven't 
yet devised an effective program to unite the lower economic orders with 
their superiors in enthusiastic citizenship. There is even a question 
whether such an idea is practical under the American competitive system. 
It wasn't practical at all in the Heart of America some twelve years ago. 

In addition to this handicap, the N.Y.M. had to get along with the 
Republicans. One of the most important consequences of the Fennelly 
enterprise was this affair with the G.OJP., for the N.Y .M. either saved 
or buried the Republican Party in Kansas City. The debate over the 
correct interpretation of what happened goes on to this day. 

The Republicans joined up after the movement had progressed to the 
point where the South Side elders felt it was safe to take over the show. 
A Citizens' Committee o 375 men and women was formed, the com- 
mittee including both Republicans and antimachine Democrats. The 


organization officially named itself the Citizens Party and later became 
the Citizens-Fusion ticket after the Republican County Committee 
voted to join forces with the N.Y.M. and the dissident Democrats. Some 
of the Republican politicians did not make this sacrifice for nonpartisan- 
ship without a struggle. Under the prodding of the Star they finally 
agreed to sink their historic political identity in the uncertain Citizens- 
Fusion hope. They complained bitterly that five of the nine places on 
the ticket went to the irregular Democrats and a deadlock developed 
until cooler heads prevailed and it was seen that under this five and four 
arrangement the Republicans had a chance to get four more seats than 
they probably would get under any other system. Even so, many of the 
G.O.P. elders were not happy, for this was a fateful step. It might mean 
the official death of the Republican Party in municipal affairs, a tragic 
event if you were a Republican and didn't accept the widely held opinioa 
that the G.O.P. in Kansas City was in fact defunct before N.Y.M. ap- 
peared to revive the fight on Pendergast. 

There was a minority of die-hard Republicans who didn't believe the 
Citizens-Fusion thing had 'enough future to justify the exchange or 
who seemed to prefer Democratic oppression to fusionism. They entered 
a separate Republican ticket to make the '34 primary a three-way race* 

While the old heads took over the authority and direction of the cam- 
paign, N.Y.M. remained in force as the spearhead of the attack, provid- 
ing the enthusiasm, the shock troops, the fund raising, the publicity and 
much of the oratory. Speakers were trained in an N.Y.M. school and 
delivered an average of fifty speeches each week over a period of four 
or five months. They carried the Citizens' message to churches, civic 
and cultural groups and pepped up the businessmen with food and 
oratory at luncheons in downtown hotels. When the final drive for votes 
began, N.Y.M. had recruited and trained three thousand ward workers. 

In short, the amateurs from the South Side gave an excellent account 
of themselves. To N.Y.M. goes the credit for providing the spark, to- 
gether with much of the sinew and intelligence, for the combination that 
held out against boss rule. It brought into the arena a class that tradition- 
ally had held aloof from the rough-and-tumble over public offices, and it 
impressed a new sense of civic responsibility on a considerable number 
o businessmen. It frightened a lot of others with the consequences of 


machine rule. It proved that collegians can learn the political game rapid- 
ly and make good fighters. Finally, it served as an effective instrument 
for many citizens who were fighting for a better order in Kansas City 
and for democratic rights, and not for narrow class, party or business in- 
terests. In fact, N.Y.M. was developing along such broad lines in the 
heat of battle that it is too bad that the antimachine politicians lost 
interest in this movement after the new youth carried the Citizens-Fusion 
Party through the terrors of February and March, 1934. 

The ticket supported by N.Y.M. represented not so much the youth of 
the movement as it did the older business interests. Head of the ticket 
was a youth well up in his sixties, Dr. A. Ross Hill, former president 
of the University of Missouri and a realtor who belonged to the foremost 
circle of socially acceptable wealth in Kansas City. 

A nice old gentleman like Dr. Hill had no business in a brawl with a 
bunch of political pool-hall boys. He was, none the less, the logical candi- 
date to raise the banner of the South Side and the businessmen against 
the machine monopoly. He was a former president of the Real Estate 
Board and a forceful spokesman for that element which long had been ac- 
customed to the pursuit of profitable enterprise without much inter- 
ference from politicians and expected to have their requests for tax relief 
treated respectfully. 

Dr. Hill was a recognized expert in real estate tax matters and in this 
work had clashed with the Country Bookkeeper before he entered the 
Citizens-Fusion campaign. He backed a bill in the Legislature to break 
up one part of the city's tax system which was particularly attractive to 
spoils politicians. This measure called for abolition of the office of de- 
linquent tax attorney, an agency that collected about seventy-five thou- 
sand dollars a year in fees. Dr. Hill argued that the office discouraged 
payment of back taxes because of the high penalty on delinquency and 
carried powers that were subject to abuse. The bill was on its way toward 
passage when the City Manager intervened with a roar to obstruct it. 

Naturally Dr. Hill was the object of the full McElroy wrath when he 
entered the fray with the New Youth, and the Judge set out at once to 
make the campaign his particular show. He gave perhaps his outstand- 
ing exhibition of mudslinging, Dogpatch style. His first act was to label 
the Fusion champion "squaw man," apparently a reference to the fact 


that Dr. Hill had married the wealthy widow o a prominent real 
estate developer, 

Dr. Hill denounced the City Manager as "arbitrary, petty and vin- 
dictive." McElroy answered that he had had one affair with Dr. Hill and 
"so far as that deal is concerned, I will plead guilty now to being arbi- 
trary, and vindictive but not petty." He went on to explain that he had 
thwarted Dr. Hill and his stepson in an effort to exact an exorbitant 
price for a piece of land involved in condemnation proceedings for a 
new highway entrance to the city. "Yes," said this righteous guardian 
of the public treasury, "I was arbitrary, perhaps a little petty and ad- 
mittedly vindictive with these high-toned, respectable gentlemen who 
were trying to get their hands in the taxpayers' pockets." He told the 
story before various meetings which he ^addressed in the campaign. It 
involved complicated details of property yalue representations, which he 
made interesting with his pious show of indignation over the Hill 
morality. The surplus profit which the vigilant City Manager said he 
kept from Hill's stepson amounted to a few thousand dollars. 

The Citizens debated the question whether they should conduct an 
old-fashioned slambang campaign to match the colorful tactics of the 
opposition, or a dignified campaign more in keeping with the character 
of their candidate for mayor, Dr. Hill. They finally decided to have both, 
with the huffing and puffing to be provided by Colonel Frederick E. 
Whitten, the Citizens' personality boy, called the LaGuardia o Kansas 

Colonel Whitten, a young lawyer, reserve officer and veteran of the 
First World War, concentrated his full attention on McElroy, or Snag- 
boat Hank. His appellation for the City Manager had its origin in the 
fact that McElroy used city funds to build a boat, the Mayflower, which 
the Citizens described as a pleasure craft for McElroy and friends and 
which McElroy said was a snagboat on the Blue River restoration project 
under the Ten-Year-Bond Program. 

Whitten was assigned .the agreeable task of showing that a snagboat 
owner belonged to a much lower order than a squaw man in the catalog 
of political name calling; and what he lacked in imagination he made 
up in enthusiasm. "Every time Snagboat Hank opens his big mouth he 
gets both feet in it," he shouted, and the crowds roared approval. 


The Colonel, a Democrat who had campaigned for the Pendergast 
ticket four years earlier, got some of the nonpartisan stuffing knocked 
out of him when he went blustering into the City Manager's office to 
demand that he be allowed to examine the city's garbage contracts and 
the audit. 

"I am here not as a candidate but as a citizen, a taxpayer . . ." the 
Colonel began. 

"Let's stick to the truth," the Judge flared. "You are here as a candidate. 
You probably are an honorable man as a citizen, a taxpayer and a 
lawyer, but as a candidate you don't tell the truth." 

The City Manager brusquely dismissed his visitor and would not let 
the local LaGuardia examine the city books but, he added, he might 
permit some one else to see them if he liked his looks. The embarrassed 
pride of the Citizens retired and the N.Y.M. selected one of its most per- 
sonable youths, Harold R. Jones, twenty-five years old, to call on the 
City Manager for the controversial data. Mr. Jones, a Harvard man and 
one of the original N.Y.M. boys, was received with great courtesy by 
McElroy and Mayor Smith, and given an eloquent lecture on the beauties 
of the garbage contract, the budget and the audit, but shown no records. 

All this was for the benefit of the crowds, a part of the general action 
in which the cagey Judge consistently confounded the amateurs. The 
main struggle, which went on both out front and behind the scenes, was 
centered in the business community. It was a fight that began long before 
the climax of March, 1934. Two years earlier the administration had 
clashed with large business interests when McElroy defied the Real 
Estate Board, successfully resisting a determined demand for a tax re- 
duction to keep municipal affairs synchronized with the downward 
spiral that was then whirling toward the bottom of the bank crisis pre- 
ceding the inauguration of Roosevelt. Instead of a tax cut, McElroy re- 
sponded with a small increase in the general property levy. This was the 
first time that McElroy had resisted the Real Estate Board, but he was 
showing an attitude that grew until he became very difficult for business 
interests that weren't in the good graces of the organization. 

The Real Estate Board picked a poor time for a showdown on tax re- 
lief. There were, of course, extravagance and boodle in the city's opera- 
tion, but they were still so well concealed that the Board could not make 


a .convincing showing that economies were in order, and its demand for 
a tax cut was interpreted as a demand for wage cutting and reduction of 
essential city services. Organized labor stepped into the contest to back 
the City Manager on the tax matter, the Real Estate Board took itself 
back to its councils to ponder the city administration's new line, and the 
N.Y.M. soon thereafter took form to channelize growing discontent 

The defeat suffered by the Real Estate Board in its tax-relief plan was 
not alone enough to provoke the uprising that followed. Signs multiplied 
on every side that the machine had embarked on a vast scheme to use 
every resource at its disposal to purchase the favor of cheaply bought 
voters on one hand and to enrich large politically favored individuals on 
the other hand. By 1934, it was clear to every sober person who knew 
the main facts of the situation that the Pendergast monopoly was an 
economic monstrosity. 

In order to sustain itself both politically and economically, the boss 
organization invaded private business on an increasingly widening scale. 
Commercial, financial and manufacturing concerns that called on the 
administration for special services, like getting an ordinance passed, or 
a building permit expedited or a tax assessment adjusted, found them- 
selves called on in turn to give jobs and contracts to people in good 
standing with the organization. In the 1934 campaign, N.YJM* speakers 
declared that their opponents produced fifty thousand to sixty thousand 
votes through the merger of business and government, estimating that 
the organization controlled between five and six thousand jobs in private 
business and a like number in city and county administrations, each job 
being "required to deliver five votes. 

As the campaign wore on, it became apparent that only a part of the 
business community was joining the crusade. Fear of reprisals and the 
conventional aloofness of business to direct political action represented 
only a part of the reason for the failure of the propertied people to dose 
ranks. The machine faction had been allowed to become so entrenched 
that it had permanently split the business community. 

The Citizens played their trump card when Ewing Y, Mitchell, assis- 
tant Secretary of Commerce, came from Washington to denounce Pen- 
dergast and read the entire list of charges against machine rule. The 
Fusion-Citizens attempted to don the Roosevelt New Deal mantle for 

23 6 TOM'S TOWN 

/ " 

the moment, but it fitted awkwardly, not to say grotesquely. There were 
few genuine liberals among the N.Y.M. or the Citizens, and Mitchell 
himself found the Rooseveltian philosophy so unpalatable that he 
bolted the Democratic Party in 1936 and ran for political office as a 
Republican in 1940. He was booted out of Roosevelt's Little Cabinet in 
1935. An attempt was made to represent this action as reprisal for his 
intervention in the Kansas City campaign in 1934, but the primary cause 
of his removal was his private quarrel with Secretary Roper and his dis- 
agreement with New Dealers. 

When the Assistant Secretary entered the '34 campaign, he came with 
the prespge of one who was high in the administration and who had 
served as Roosevelt's pre-convention manager in Missouri in 1932. His 
differences with Roper and the President had not yet come to public 
attention. Pendergast was so disturbed by the impression which the 
Mitchell visit created that he prevailed on his good friend, Jim Farley, to 
issue a statement that Mitchell spoke for himself alone, and a White 
House spokesman announced that the administration still adhered to 
the old rule against interference in local political fights. However, the 
impression of Washington disfavor for Pendergast lingered, to be re- 
vived ,and strengthened by later events. 

Assistant Secretary Mitchell, a Springfield, Missouri, Democrat, used 
the evidence developed by two grand juries to make the point that crime 
and boodling found here made the Tammany machine in New York, 
the Vare machine in Philadelphia, the Mellon machine in Pittsburgh 
and the St. Louis machine smalltime outfits compared with the Pender- 
gast contraption. The men at 1908 Main Street replied with a statement 
to the press. 

"Kansas City under the Democratic Party has better police protection 
and there is less crime committed here than in any city of its size or larger 
in the United States," said Boss Pendergast, who was beginning to re- 
peat himself. 

To show his followers his complete confidence, he concluded: 

"My final answer to this gentleman is for him to read thie Kansas City 
papers the day after our city election." 

City Manager McElroy took his cue from the Boss. To Dr. Hill's 
charges of payroll padding, enrichment of favored contractors, using 


the taxing and licensing powers to compel political subservience, jug- 
gling of funds, illegal use of the gasoline tax fund and other funds, failure 
to pay more than six million sinking fund charges, misuse of bond funds, 
profitable trading in building permits, failure to make a proper audit, 
etc., etc., Snagboat Hank responded by advising Dr. Hill to read the elec- 
tion returns in the newspapers. 


THE TWENTY-SEVENTH of March, 1934, brought good election weather, 
with sun and a snap in the air. When the first voters went to the polls 
the mercury stood at ten degrees below freezing. It rose slowly through 
the day to stop at forty-four. 

Weeks of campaigning had produced a feeling of vast tension through- 
out the city, and the sense of alarm was heightened by numerous and 
widespread signs and portents of the universal crisis attending the ad- 
vance of the Kansas City factions toward the day of decision. " 

Physical force had entered the contest after N.Y.M. undertook extraor- 
dinary measures to supervise the registration of voters, arming many 
of their members with cameras, which they used to photograph repeaters. 
They continued their detective work to gather other evidence of false 
registration, producing a formidable list of alleged ghost voters. There 
were numerous reports that N.Y.M. workers had been threatened and 
assaulted and the excitement mounted when N.Y.M. leaders charged 
that police and North Side bullies intimidated many individuals into 
repudiating affidavits of false registration. Despite the interference, 
N.Y.M. routed many ghosts and the registration ended with a strike-off 
of 88,107 names, the largest in Kansas City history. However, all this 
was insufficient to arrest the rising vote trend produced by the machine 
and the registration finally totaled approximately 244,000,' a new record 
for the city and a figure that represented well over half the entire 

The independent Republican organization in the contest gave some 
comfort to the opposition by challenging the credentials of the N.Y.M.- 
Chizens election workers and seeking an injunction to prevent the 


Election Board from issuing election supplies 'to Citizens judges and 
clerks. The injunction was denied but the proceeding gave some Demo- 
crats an idea for a new form of harassment. On primary day, many 
Citizens Party workers arrived at the polls to find their places pre- 
empted by strangers with faked credentials. This provoked numerous 
arguments and fights, including a brawl involving twelve battlers when 
Citizens went to a voting booth on East Eighteenth Street to investigate 
the ejection of their challengers. 

When the primary ballots were counted, the Democrats were more 
than 38,000 ahead of the Citizens, Mayor Smith having 103,616 against 
65,363 for his rival, Dr. Hill Clark E. Jacoby, the third candidate for 
mayor, polled 4,373. 

Under the Kansas City election system for municipal contests, the 
primary served to nominate the candidates winning first and second 
places in the voting. Although the 1934 primary results forecast an easy 
victory for the Democratic ticket as a whole in the runoflf or final elec- 
tion, there was no slackening in the campaigning for the outcome in a 
few Council races remained in doubt. 

Following the primary the Citizens filed hundreds of affidavits cover- 
ing sluggings and various other acts of terrorism at the polls. A Service- 
men's League then appeared on the scene as the N.Y.M. and Citizens 
answer to the bullies from the North Side. The League recruited war 
veterans for service as election workers and watchers. It issued a ques- 
tionnaire asking these men to list any firearms they possessed* The 
Democrats exploited this slip, former Senator Reed and other party 
orators declaring that the Citizens were organizing a Young Civil Army 
patterned after the Blackshirts and the Brownshirts of Europe. Leaders 
of the Citizens disavowed any connection with the League and Senator 
Reed accepted publicly the disclaimer of Alex S. Rankin, a Democrat 
in the Citizens command, but the damage was done. The opposition 
had its own army of toughs but didn't talk about it, and the Citizens 
were stuck with blame for provocation. The Servicemen's League with- 
drew from the picture after offering its assistance to the police and re- 
ceiving a curt rejection. 

Tension continued to grow, and the Citizens addressed fervent ap- 
peals to the governor to send the National Guard to Kansas City for 


election day. He turned down their request after conferring with the 
Election Board, saying he was satisfied there was no cause for alarm. 

The oratorical battle reached its peak on a Saturday night, three days 
before the election, when more than twelve thousand party workers 
received final instructions. Halls in all parts o the city were crowded 
with excited citizens listening to inflamed speakers. To the people in 
their homes, radios blared the call to march and vote. 

By chance several of the leaders of the opposing groups met in the 
studios of the Star's radio station, WDAF, on election eve. They b&wed, 
smiled, spoke and shook hands after giving their final radio appeals to 
the voters. That was about twelve hours before the shooting started. 

In the editorial room of the Star, the first reports of election progress 
were assembled for the noon edition of Tuesday, March 27, scheduled to 
reach the streets shortly before eleven o'clock. Calls to various key pre- 
cincts revealed an exceedingly heavy vote, for the morning hours. Re- 
ports from N.Y.M. and Citizens leaders who visited or telephoned the 
Star office disclosed uncommon activity in the machine-dominated down- 
town precincts. Scores of motor cars, some occupied by Citizens* workers 
and more filled with their opponents, cruised over these areas. They 
gave the streets the aspect of a battleground with the opposing armies 
maneuvering for position. But the unnatural peace with which the day 
began remained unbroken when the Star's political reporter sat down to 
write his lead for the noon. 

The noon was going to press when Justin D. Bowersock, a reporter 
assigned to the downtown precincts-run for the day, dashed into the city 
room. His face was blanched, his hair tousled and there was blood on his 

"They're after me," Bowersock shouted. "They're trying to kill me!" 

It seemed that everybody in the large room ducked, but in a moment 
Bowersock was surrounded by editors, rewrite men and copyreaders. He 
was so nervous and breathless that for a minute he could give no co- 
herent explanation of what was wrong. Sox was a reporter of fertile 
imagination and dramatic tendencies, but this was no act. The blood 
on his forehead was real. 

Two figures appeared running through the door through which 


Bowersock had just entered. Editors, rewrite men and copyreaders 
looked for a place to hide. A shout went up when the newcomers were 
recognized as copyboys and a nervous laugh swept through the office, 
breaking the tension. 

Bowersock told his story in^short takes and a bulletin on his experience 
appeared in the first edition. Edition followed edition with accounts of 
fresh disturbances, growing in violence as the day advanced, and the 
turmoil in the city room didn't slacken until the following morning. The 
Star posted notice of a five-thousand-dollar reward for the assailants of 
its reporter along with the news of the attack on him and two com- 

Sox spilled first blood for the Citizens when he went to the near North 
Side to check the polling places for reports of vote repeating. He made 
the tactical error of joining the company of young Dr. Arthur Wells, 
Citizens' candidate for councilman from the First District, who was a 
marked man that day. They were accompanied by Lloyd Cole, a former 
policeman and a Citizens* worker, and rode in Bowersock's car to a voting 
booth at Ninth Street and Troost Avenue, where Ehr. Wells intended 
to investigate rumors of repeating. The reporter was on a newspaper 
assignment, not electioneering, but a group of Democratic muscle boys 
didn't wait to ask questions when they observed him with Wells and 
Cole. Even if they had recognized him as a Starman it is doubtful if 
they would have been more restrained, for the paper's vigorous work 
for the reform had made it very unpopular with the gangsters. The news- 
paperman's car was trailed from the booth by two carloads of hoodlums, 
who riddled it with bullets and ran it down after a block's chase. All 
three of the fleeing men were slugged, Dr. Wells being injured so severely 
that he was taken to a hospital. Bowersock escaped by leaping into the 
car of another Citizens' worker who was passing the scene. Then began 
a flight of more than a mile, with two gunmen in one car racing to over- 
take the retreating journalist. He was followed all the way to the Star 
Building, where Sox leaped from his rescuer's car and dashed inside 
with one of the gunmen at his heels to the entrance of the building. 

Excitement over the Bowersock incident had not begun to settle when 
the Star's editor, H. J. Haskell, loped into the office in a state of great - 


agitation. He had just received word that his Negro chauffeur, James 
Washington, had been beaten and shot at while driving the Haskell car 
to the polls with a load of Citizens* voters. The Haskell automobile was 
run down in an alley near Thirty-first Street and Linwood Boulevard, a 
business and apartment center. Washington was seized and beaten and 
escaped by running through yards of homes in the neighborhood. 

A Citizens' delegation called on Police Director Reppert to demand 
better police supervision but he refused to see them. 

The hotshot telephone on the Star's city desk rang with a report of 
murder. The presses stopped and there was a makeover flashing the news 
that William Finley had been killed at 1901 East Twenty-fourth Street 
by an Italian gang that invaded the voting place there. Finley, a Demo- 
cratic precinct captain and a Negro, lost his life trying to defend a 
Negro election judge singled out for a beating by the gang. Finley drew 
a revolver but the gangsters shot first. 

Citizens' leaders sent telegrams to Governor Park demanding that 
National Guardsmen be called out. He refused to intervene. 

Hundreds of armed men rode in black cars, roving the North Side, 
West, Northeast and Southeast sections. Many of their cars carried no 
license plates, passing traffic officers and police stations without molesta- 

The police made fourteen arrests, twelve of them on the South Side. 
Those arrested were working for the Citizens and were suspected by the 
zealous officers of contemplating intimidation. All were released.- 

The 7 P.M. edition of the Star went to press shortly after six o'clock, 
carrying a late round-up of the voting progress. All records were being 
smashed and the total would go beyond the previous high figure of 
219,000 in November, 1932. (It went to 222,866.) An interesting detail 
of this late story was a report that C. R. Benton, Democratic candidate 
for councilman in the Second District, was being knifed in a row be- 
tween minor Democratic factional leaders. When newsboys on Twelfth 
Street were calling the headlines of the 7 P. M. edition, the quarrel over 
Benton reached its climax in the murder of three persons near a voting 
booth five miles southeast of the downtown section. 

The story of what happened was told in extras. John Gadwood, a lieu- 

24 2 TOM'S TOWN 

tenant in the Kelly group of the Shannon Rabbit faction, rode with 
terrorists filling three cars to a polling place on Swope Parkway, in a 
residential neighborhood, to punish Deputy Sheriff Lee Flacy for defying 
orders to work against Candidate Benton. Benton was marked for 
knifing because he belonged to the Johnson group of the Shannon fac- 
tion, and the Kelly boys were warring against that group because L. C. 
Johnson, director of the Fire Department, had displaced Kelly in Shan- 
non's favor. 

Gadwood's party found Deputy Sheriff Flacy eating a sandwich in a 
restaurant near the voting booth. They called him to the rear of the res- 
taurant, quarreled with him and shot him. They ran from the place and 
Flacy limped afted them. At the doorway he stood firing his pistol at the 
fleeing cars. The gunmen returned the fire and Flacy fell. He died several 
hours later in a hospital, leaving his bride of seventeen days. Revolver and 
shotgun fire from the gunmen struck P. W. Oldham, a neighborhood 
hardware store owner, who was closing his store for the evening. He was 
killed instantly. One of the cars of the gangsters overturned in front of 
a Catholic school when its driver attempted to turn it sharply at high 
speed. In the rear seat was Larry Cappo, a member of the Joe Lusco mob, 
aligned with the Cas Welch Democratic faction. He was dying from one 
of the bullets Flacy had fired. 

Morning editions carried the score: Four slain, eleven severely injured, 
bruises, black eyes and cracked heads too numerous to be estimated. The 
Pendergast ticket had been returned to office by a margin of 59,000 votes 
for its candidate for mayor, retaining seven places in the nine-man Coun- 
cil. The Citizens won two Council places, for D. S. Adams and Frank 
H, Backstrom, the margin of victory in the second place being provided 
by the Democratic factional row which led to the deaths of three persons. 

There was one other gain for the Citizens, a victory of slight political 
significance but one which gave intense satisfaction to a certain element 
of N.Y.M, Miss Sidney May Smith, Junior Leaguer, had outfoxed T. J. 
Pendergast himself in a race to be Voter No. i in the Eighth Precinct of 
the Eighth Ward, a decorous South Side neighborhood. When Boss 
Pendergast arrived at the booth at six o'clock in the morning he fouqd a 
group of N.Y.M. girls, headed by Miss Smith, lined up before him. A 
Democratic judge explained the situation to the young ladies. It was 


sentiment and tradition with the Boss, who had been Voter No. i in this 
precinct for the last several elections, and would they like to stand aside 
so he could keep his record clean ? They wouldn't and they didn't. Big 
Tom voted No. 5 and Miss Smith got her picture in the paper. 



THE HUE and cry that arose over the conduct of the election was suffi- 
ciently intense and loud to have produced a revolution, which it failed to 
do. Fire was directed principally against Police Director Reppert and 
Judge McElroy, who met the situation with his usual poise and resource- 
fulness. The City Manager was disturbed by neither the local nor 
national commotion provoked by the Kansas City disorders. In Wash- 
ington, Senator Royal S. Copeland of New York announced that his 
Senate Crime Investigation Committee would come to Kansas City and 
the Judge advised the Senator to take castor oil. On second thought, 
he welcomed the Senator's Committee to town and urged Copeland, in 
a manner that was not lost upon those familiar with City Hall ways, to 
reveal the names of persons who had informed him of local conditions. 

N.YJM. held a post-election mass meeting and proclaimed its inten- 
tion to march on to the next battle. The crowd that filled Ivanhoe Temple 
roared itself hoarse for Joe Fennelly, Dr. Hill, Colonel Whitten, Alex 
Rankin, Louis G. Lower, Webster Townley, Councilmen-elect Adams 
and Backstrom. William E. Kemp (who became Kansas City's mayor 
on the Citizens' ticket twelve years later) spoke for a permanent regis- 
tration law and Fennelly announced that N.Y.M. would immediately 
open a campaign for its adoption. There was talk of plans for a recall 
election in six months and the rally ended with a demonstration pro- 
voked by a speech demanding the election of a Legislature that would 
impeach Governor Park, the figurehead in Uncle Tom's Cabin. It was 
the last important show of force by N.Y.M. 

Speakers at the N.Y.M. rally listed several important gains made by 
the Pendergast opposition in this campaign. They dwelt upon the election 
of two Fusion men to the Council and the events which had aroused the 
public to the need for a permanent registration law to eliminate the 


frauds that helped the machine to perpetuate itself in power. (Estimates 
of the number of ghost votes in the recent balloting ran as high as fifty 
thousand.) They reviewed the disclosures and incidents which ripped 
the last cover from boss rule. They paid insufficient attention, how- 
ever, to the most important development of the campaign, which was the 
entry of the Star for a showdown battle with Pendergast. 

On election day the period of half-truce and indecision finally ended. 
There would be no more temporizing or compromises, and no more pro- 
motions of Judge McElroy. The Star had entered the campaign support- 
ing the Citizens-Fusion ticket in a moderate, dignified fashion, and 
ended it prepared for a long and bitter struggle whose outcome could 
not be foreseen in 1934. On election day the Pendergast challenge for a 
slugging match to the finish was given and accepted. The N.Y.M. and 
many of the figures in the 1934 fracas would be forgotten, but the news- 
paper would spearhead the opposition for the battles of '36, '38, '40 and 
later. It went into that contest with the fighting spirit of old Baron 
Nelson, and with perhaps more generalship than the Old Man had ex- 

The Star was now directed not by one powerful individual but by a 
quartet who had come up under Nelson Longan, Haskell, McCollum 
and Roberts. They were men of strong opinions, self-assertive, and full of 

First round in the new struggle between the newspaper and the po- 
litical machine was well under way by the time that the N.YJM. staged 
the post-election rally which was in effect its farewell. During the two 
weeks between the election and the day when the new Council was 
sworn in, the newspaper editors and the strategists at 1908 Main engaged 
in a battle of wits that was distinguished by the skill displayed on both 
sides. The general public could see only. the surface manifestations or re- 
sults of the planning and intrigue that went on behind the scenes, but 
even from the outside it was apparent that this was a contest of equals 
in the art of political maneuvering. 

The Star opened with an editorial blast demanding that the police 
department be reorganized to clean up the city. This was Pendergast's 
most vulnerable point not only because of the public agitation over the 
election murders and crime conditions generally, but also because a fac- 


tional dispute within the Democratic organization revolved around 
Police Director Reppert. Cas Welch, the Fifteen Street boss, who con- 
trolled two councilmen in the new administration, objected to Reppert. 

Playing up the factional row, the Star pointed out that Big Tom was 
sure of only three votes in the new Council A. N. Gossett, Charlie 
Clark and Ruby D. Garrett. Mayor Smith was also a Pendergast man 
but it was fondly believed he might be inclined to throw his one vote to 
the opposition if a revolt looked promising. The Citizens, with two 
votes, could deprive McElroy of a working majority in the Council if 
they could promote a coalition including Mayor Smith, Cas Welch's 
two councilmen and the one councilman controlled by Shannon. 

Speculative stories covering this situation, designed to spread suspicion 
and dismay among the machine factions, were given conspicuous posi- 
tion, and for a few days it was made to appear that a permanent breach 
in the machine might develop. Attention was centered on Mayor Smith 
in an effort to stampede him into rebellious action. The Star interviewed 
the diminutive mayor whom McElroy called "Boss," presenting him flat- 
teringly in the role of an independent and forceful executive. It followed 
that with a long story announcing that the Honorable Bryce Smith had 
at last seized control of the City Hall from McElroy after being "side- 
tracked, ignored and humiliated for four years.'* The stratagem was 
successful to the point that Mr. Smith kept up the independent pose for 
four days during which he was publicly committed to a permanent regis- 
tration law. 

At the same time public indignation against the machine was kept 
alive by a series of news stories that were more eloquent and much more 
provocative than any fire-eating editorial could have been. There were 
stories recounting the activities of Sheriff Tom Bash, a member of the 
Rabbit faction, in his effort to track down the election-day slayers and 
hoodlums, drawing a glaring contrast to the dereliction of the police. 
There were stories of the neighborhood mourning for the election- 
murder victims and more stories along the same line when funeral 
services were held for them. On Good Friday, Dr. Harry Clayton Rogers, 
pastor of the Linwood Presbyterian Church, preached a "Black Friday" 
sermon on the crimes of Kansas City. His sermon, featured on page one, 


was a signal for the pulpit battery of the Protestant brotherhood to go 
into action. 

The next day Police Director Reppert resigned with a sigh of relief. 

It appeared to the spectators that the revolt was beginning to roll, al- 
though in fact the dropping of Reppert meant that a deal had been made 
patching up the rift in the machine rather than that the boys were run- 
ning for cover. The Star, the Republicans and the Citizens whooped for 
more blood, turning their full fire directly on McElroy, and the minis- 
terial contingent responded with a broadside from the Sunday morning 
pulpits. The next day, the Ministerial Alliance, representing one hundred 
and four Protestant churches, met and demanded the ouster of McElroy. 

The administration was then ready to make its stand. It led off with a 
show of shame and remorse over the election day murders when Council- 
man Gossett went before the last meeting of the old City Council wifh 
an impassioned declaration for a purified police force and a permanent 
registration law. That was the extent of the organization's concession 
to the public clamor directed by the Star. 

Farmer Al obviously was deeply moved by his recital of the evils 
brought to light in the campaign. "I feel like resigning my position, 
Mr. Mayor," he said, "and am only deterred from doing so by my con- 
viction that it would be a sign of weakness, and I shall, therefore, 
continue my endeavors to serve the people of Kansas City as best I may." 

Reformation of the Police Department was immediately manifested by 
the dropping of numerous officers in the lower brackets, a series of liquor 
raids, tightening of regulations on pool halls and the setting of police 
traps for motorists who had failed to purchase license tags all of them 
measures well calculated to make reform unpopular with a large element 
of the population. Police contributed further to the cooling of the public 
mood when they manhandled John Gadwood, following his arrest for 
the election-day murder of Deputy Lee Flacy. Two detectives were fired 
for beating up Gadwood, and McElroy and the police heads publicly 
deplored the resort to third-degree tactics. Although it was difficult to 
imagine that the two detectives acted without orders from above, it was 
possible that they were two Pendergast loyalists who decided to sacrifice 
themselves in order to strike a double blow for their side. In maltreating 


Gadwood, they were paying off a petty figure in a minor Democratic fac- 
tion who had got the Goat boss into deep trouble and at the same time 
provoking a reaction to the demand for greater zeal on the part of the 

A curious incident served to deflect some of the public anger from 
Judge McElroy himself. At the height of the clamor against him some- 
one fired a bullet through the front window of his home while he and 
,his daughter were in an adjoining room. The following night Mary 
McElroy answered the telephone and a man's voice said : "We never miss 
a second time," Everyone was reminded, o course, of the McElroys* 
troubles the year before, when Mary McElroy was kidnaped from her 
home and held a prisoner overnight until thirty thousand dollars ran- 
som was paid. After the shooting, the Star printed an editorial suggest- 
ing that the harassment of the Judge was an effort to defame the city, 
and a relaxing of the pressure on the City Manager immediately was 

All of these incidents had a sobering effect on the citizens, suggesting 
in various ways that the cleanup agitation was producing extreme reac- 
tions that were neither intended nor desired. 

Four days before the new Council was to meet, it was announced that 
all differences within the machine had been ironed out with the retire- 
ment of Reppert and that McElroy would be retained for his third 
four-year term as city manager. The Star shifted its line of attack to con- 
centrate on control of the Police Department, starting agitation for im- 
portation of an Army officer as police director. Mr. McElroy cut that hope 
short and for the moment confounded his critics on the Star by picking 
a former reporter on the Star's staff, one Otto P. Higgias, for the police 
director's post. 

Mr. Higgins carried no great weight with the Star management, but 
he was personally popular with the staff and his Star background made 
it embarrassing for the newspaper to attack him or even express regret 
over his appointment. 

All of which explains why the great reform of 1934 ended with the 
selection of the man who soon became a target of the clean-up people 
and who eventually produced the biggest scandal in the Police Depart- 



SOMEDAY, perhaps a hundred years hence when the Hollywood influence 
has begun to decline, praise the Lord, it may be possible to write an ade- 
quate account of that significant American type known as the gangster* 
The wish for more intelligent treatment than is now possible comes up 
in connection with this all-too-brief chapter on Johnny Lazia, whose re- 
markable career reached its inevitable conclusion in the months immedi- 
ately following the reform efforts and election massacre of 1934. 

The change in police command was not the thing that adversely af- 
fected the fortunes of Lazia at this time. He continued to call at the 
City Hall and police headquarters and the new police director followed 
the established policy of consulting the North Side chieftain on the ap- 
pointment of officers and the regulation of crime. However, the serious 
trouble that soon developed for the Italian boss did have some connection 
with the recently suppressed political revolt against the administration, 
for it was intimately related to the complicated functioning of Home 
Rule as directed by Pendergast, McElroy and Lazia. The Lazia affair 
also served as the first large illustration of the personal disaster that was 
in the making for the principal figures in the machine. 

In the fateful month of July, 1934, Johnny Lazi^ was thirty-seven years 
old, one of the most successful and probably the most discussed citizen of 
Kansas City. He drew even more popular attention than either Boss 
Pendergast or Judge McElroy. His criminal background and racketeer 
reputation were not the only things that made him fascinating to the 
curious public. Johnny also had personality. In fact, he had charm. He 
looked amiable and modest. He spoke good English, told humorous 
stories, smiled often behind his rimless eyeglasses and chewed gum con- 
stantly. There was little about his appearance and manners to stamp him 
as a gang leader, a man of immigrant stock who had risen from the 
underworld to a commanding position in political and business circles 
in a mid-American city. t 

Unlike the underworld hero of movies and books, Lazia did not go in 
for mystery and aloofness. True, he rode in a bulletproof motor car and 


was constantly attended by his portly, solemn bodyguard, Big Charley 
Carollo. But these were minimum concessions to the dramatic require- 
ments of his role, for purposes of safety. Despite this handicap, Lazia 
managed to make himself seen in public, for he wanted to be known as 
a man about town. He went to the night spots, the sports shows and 
gambling places, and on week ends he went with some of his boys to 
his cottage on Lake Lotawana, where he raced his high-powered speed- 
boat and splashed waves on the best people from Kansas City who main- 
tained summer homes in this resort. He lived in an apartment on Armour 
Boulevard with his pretty wife, who made a large splash with the dough 
that Johnny generously provided. 

The doings of Johnny Lazia at the height of his career and the sensa- 
tional events of his last days so excited the popular imagination that little 
or no attention was paid to the equally interesting story of his beginning 
and his rise to power. As a result, a host of questions about him, his or- 
ganization, his friendship with Pendergast, his political and business 
connections with the Boss and other leaders in the town, his influence and 
his meaning in American life have been incompletely answered or not 
answered at all. The general impression that has been left is that this son 
of immigrants was an exceptional individual who rose through excep- 
tional circumstances to the place he occupied. However, enough facts 
about him are known to make it clear that Johnny Lazia was no accident. 
Somewhat exceptional he may have been in his own small circle, but 
there was nothing very strange about the circumstances. Some of the in- 
cidents of his rise were odd or melodramatic, but the conditions that 
produced the North Side boss had been familiar features of American life 
for many years and haven't been greatly modified since 1934. 

Kansas City's Little Italy was a trouble spot that entered its darkest 
period when Lazia was a boy. Toil, poverty and crime were the daily 
story of the congested district east of Market Square on the North Side. 
By 1920 the number of first and second generation Italians in Kansas 
City had been reduced to 6,116, but before the' First World War it was 
estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 persons lived in the narrow 
confines of Little Italy. Not all of them were Italians. Negroes encroached 
on the neighborhood. Segregated themselves and treated daily to dis- 
crimination in work and social life, the Italians turned with fury on their 

2 5 o TOM'S TOWN 

colored neighbors. Homes of Negroes were dynamited in an effort to 
frighten them off and murders grew out of this racial antagonism be- 
tween the two groups that were the chief victims of discrimination im- 
posed by the white Americans. 

The Italians made a large stir in politics and crime for their numbers, 
but not simply because they had a special talent for these pursuits. Oppor- 
tunities and rewards for common laborers and hucksters were decidedly 
limited while the field in vice and banditry was booming. The Mafia 
appeared to regulate the community with dagger, pistol and bomb. In 
the decade ending in 1916, the year that Johnny Lazia first figured in the 
crime news, there had been forty unsolved murders on the North Side. 
There were sporadic efforts to break up the Black Hand and suppress 
other kinds of criminals, but for the most part the busy citizens living 
outside the North Side paid little attention to the newcomers so long as 
the violence and misery were confined to Little Italy. 

In his youth, Johnny Lazia, son of a laborer, a boy whose education 
did not extend beyond the eighth grade, attracted the favorable attention 
of influential men with his brightness, friendliness and political precocity. 
He obtained a clerk's job in the office of a reputable law firm, studied law 
and seemed destined for a legal career until caught in the act of banditry. 
He staged a holdup in which he collected two hundred and fifty dollars, 
a diamond stickpin and a watch, and was captured in a revolver battle 
with Captain John Ennis. When he was eighteen years old he was sen- 
tenced to fifteen years in the Missouri penitentiary. He was even then a 
figure of consequence in political and gang circles, a fact that was im- 
pressed on the public by incident^ attending his prosecution and im- 
prisonment. Police reported the discovery of a plot to shoot up the justice 
of peace court where Lazia was to be arraigned and another plot to de- 
liver him from jail. The jury that convicted him was given a special 
guard after receiving death threats. The presiding judge remitted three 
years of Lazia's sentence, reducing it to twelve years, and he served only 
eight months and seven days. His prison record was distinguished by his 
good behavior and efficiency as a bookkeeper. His parole was recom- 
mended by the county attorney of Jackson County and two other party 
leaders, and was granted by another good Democrat, the lieutenant gov- 
ernor, acting as the chief executive in -the governor's absence from the 


state. The acting governor justified his haste in this case as "a war 

. Lazia returned to Kansas City two months before the war ended, re- 
entering civil life at the moment when the general disturbance provoked 
by the military conflict, Prohibition and the capitalist inflation-deflation 
cycle was just getting under way. He announced that "the wild boy" 
of the recent holdup had died in prison. Having been such a conspicuous 
beneficiary of political influence, he concentrated on the task of political 
organization, doing favors, lending money, keeping boys out of jail. He 
dabbled in real estate and also took an interest in gambling and boot- 
legging but managed to keep beyond the clutches of the law. In one case 
he was indicted with a group of men in a liquor conspiracy but was freed 
when Carollo, his bodyguard, took the rap a not-very-heavy one. 

Lazia's political leadership of the North Side was established in 1928 
in an election called to vote on a proposed twenty-eight-and-one-half- 
million-dollar bond issue. The city rejected most of the bonds and Lazia 
provided most of the excitement. His fight was made on a Home Rule 
issue for the Italian community, Lazia's faction challenging the absentee 
over lordship of Mike Ross, a Goat leader who long had controlled Little 
Italy before he moved from the North to the South Side. His place was 
usurped by Lazia through the use of strongarm tactics. Several of Ross's 
old lieutenants were kidnaped, one was struck on the head with a re- 
volver and another barely missed a bullet. When the polls closed, it was 
found that Lazia's boys had delivered more votes and the defeated group 
attended a mass meeting in Ringside Hall to hail the new leader. A band 
played, "Here Comes the King," while the loyal followers shouted "Our 
Johnny" and "You tell 'em, J'ohnny." 

Boss Pendergast gave an interview to the press in which he indicated 
his displeasure over the riotous events on the North Side a$d let it be 
known he would stand by the deposed Mike Ross, with whom he had 
long enjoyed profitable relations in the concrete business. But Johnny 
used his charm as well as his power, and he and Boss Tom soon were fast 
friends. In later years it was rumored that they had quarreled, and that 
Johnny had stabbed Tom, but there was never any evidence of such a 
fight and their relationship remained unbroken to the end. 

Force was the instrument by which Lazia ruled, but force alone did 


not account for his success. He had real organizing and executive ability 
in undertakings calling for something more than the application of fists 
and bullets. He mapped out projects for enterprises that would give 
profitable employment to his following. He was resourceful in working 
out schemes to take care of his men when they got into trouble. He built 
up his organization to the point where it was both a political force and 
a large economic factor in the life of the community. To those who 
opposed him and stood in his way, he was cruel and ruthless, but to 
those who acknowledged his leadership and served his purposes he was 
both wise arbiter and able protector. His henchmen formed a cult of 
admirers, called him Brother John in recognition of various services of a 
generous and benevolent nature that were hidden from people outside 
his circle. Brother John supported the cause of charity for citizens of his 
realm, who were considered deserving by the North Side Democratic 
Club. Brother John always had a coin for a panhandler and was lajrge 
handed with his friends. Brother John was an amusing and considerate 
companion. Women, particularly women of the South Side who met him 
or saw him on occasions when their husbands were discussing business 
or political affairs with the North Side leader, thought him fascinating. 
Brother John, it was said, objected to "rough stuff" and wanted peace 
and order. He wanted to lift himself and some of his people to a higher 
place in the economic and social scale. Grinning, speaking softly, ex- 
changing wisecracks, chewing his gum, Brother John ingratiated himself 
with many persons in high places while not relaxing the rule of force 
that operated through the North Side Democratic Club. He advanced to 
power with the same catlike tread that distinguished the gait of his trim 
one-hundred-and-f orty-pound figure. 

McElroy's Home Rule greatly increased Lazia's responsibilities. It was 
said at the City Hall and police headquarters that the new policy of wink- 
ing at "minor infractions" and concentrating on major crime had brought 
a reduction in "rough stuff." Lazia was entitled to some credit for that 
alleged improvement, for he was one of three who had a voice in naming 
men to the Police Department, and the turnover was large and rapid. 
The figures on crime reduction were not very reassuring to the public, 
however, for there were still a large number of major crimes and the new 
crime control commission was having obvious difficulty in getting co- 


operation from some important elements of the underworld. Compe- 
tition for the gambling and liquor concessions showed signs o increasing 
rather than decreasing under the combined effect of toleration of petty 
violations of the law and the monopoly organization of vice syndicates. 
The underworld regulators faced a constant threat from three sides 
from out-of-town criminals who showed a growing disposition to move 
in and take advantage of Home Rule hospitality, from amateurs or punks 
who were stimulated to emulate the big shots, and from local rivals like 
the Lusco gang, allied with the Welch Democratic faction, who com- 
plained that Lazia's followers got too may concessions. 

An interesting commentary on the conditions under which the Home 
Rule administrators labored was given by Federal Judge Merrill K Otis 
of Kansas City, a distinguished advocate of speedy and stern punishment 
for lawbreakers. Judge Otis, in an interview published in Lazia's last 
year, tried to be as reassuring about the situation as he could, saying: 

"I believe there are no more criminals today, in proportion to the whole 
population, than there have ever been. I believe that ninety-five per cent, 
at least, of the people of this country, both in city and country, are law 
abiding. The enemies of society constitute a very small minority. ... I 
am convinced that humanity is not becoming worse. There has always 
been a criminal fringe, maybe five per cent, maybe less, that is causing the 
trouble now. There is an alarming increase in one class of crimes only. 
There is a startling increase in what we might call the big money kind 
of banditry.'* 

A ninety-five-per-cent law-abiding nation sounded better than saying 
that more than six million Americans made a business of thievery and 
murder. Five per cent of Kansas 'City's population meant that around 
twenty thousand citizens were busy with schemes to rook their neighbors. 
But if, as the Judge said, the total number engaged in this traffic was not 
alarming, the "increase in what we might call the big money kind o 
banditry" was. Both Home Rule and John Lazia were ruined by this rush 
for the big money, a trend that was not entirely confined to the under- 

In looking for a date and an incident opening the last chapter of the 
Lazia story, the eye falls on a day early in July, 1932, less than four 
months after the Home Rule experiment had been inaugurated. In the 


second week of July a strange event that occurred at a golf club called 
attention to the fact that criminals of the big time were centering their 
activities in this city, moving about with a large sense of freedom and 
living in style. A public golf course that was then popular with police 
officials and prominent gamblers was patronized one day by four strang- 
ers who wore smart sports clothes and played a smart brand of golf. 
When the round ended, three of the four were arrested by special agents 
of the division of investigation, Department of Justice, waiting at the 
clubhouse. The fourth, who got away, was Frank Nash, bank and mail- 
train robber and killer. The other three were widely known criminals. 
Among them was Harvey Bailey, one of the chief desperadoes of the 
period, who was then living quietly but luxuriously in a Kansas City 
apartment under an alias, posing as a businessman by the name of John 

Bailey was removed to Kansas to answer for a bank holdup and sent 
to the state prison at Lansing. The golf club incident was forgotten until 
it was recalled a year later as the opening round in a series of events that 
tossed Kansas City into deepening turmoil, startled the nation and 
spelled doom for Johnny Lazia. 

Frank Nash and Harvey Bailey belonged to that weird company of 
public enemies that included Fred (Killer) Burke, Machine Gun Kelly, 
Wilbur Underbill, Charles (Pretty Boy) 'Floyd, Adam Richetti and 
Verne C. Miller. They were boys from the farms, small towns and cities 
of the Middle West, adventurous spirits of an unsettled time. Floyd, 
Nash and Richetti came from Oklahoma, Underbill from Missouri. 
Miller had been a sheriff at Huron, South Dakota. Bailey was a farm 
boy from Sullivan County, Missouri. He hid Killer Burke on his mother's 
farm after the St. Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago in 1929, in which 
Burke was one of the machine gunners, feurke was captured on the 
Bailey farm after he was identified by a filling station operator from a 
picture of the killer in a detective magazine. * 

,These dangerous men were not identified with a city gang but moved 
over a large section of the country, demanding and receiving protection 
from the underworld wherever they operated. At the time of his arrest in 
Kansas City, Bailey was working in a large band that roved between St. 
Paul, Chicago, Kansas City and Hot Springs, Arkansas, Individually the 


gunmen, bandits, kidnapers and killers of the road dwarfed the city type 
of gangster, and their collective operations were beginning to make the 
fratricidal wars of the city gangs look like a minor disturbance. They 
worked individually, in teams and in family groups, as with Ma Barker 
and her fearful brood. They robbed and killed with their women. Clyde 
Barrow and his cigar-smoking, pistol-packing mama, Bonnie Parker, 
fought their way out of a trap near Kansas City not long before they 
were killed together in 1934 in a crime tour that took them over several 
states of the Middle West and South. The gun moll was a familiar figure 
in the police showup (as Kansas City calls the line-up). These men and 
women of old American stock made it all too clear that the lawless revival 
was not confined to the congested centers where the foreign-born were 
segregated. They also made it clear that crime had passed beyond the 
stage of local or state problem and had become a national peril. 

Three days before Harvey Bailey broke out again, the Kansas City 
Home Rule order was overturned by four native Americans who had 
seen too many B pictures and heard about too many racketeers getting 
ahead in the world. These ambitious beginners exhibited both daring and 
imagination in their first and last big operation. They kidnaped Mary 
McElroy, twenty-five-year-old daughter of the City Manager, taking her 
from her bath to a dungeon where she was chained and held prisoner for 
thirty-four hours. Their choice of setting for the crime, the home pf the 
City Manager, was in a quiet but populous section of the South Side, 
and the time was a Saturday morning late in May, 1933, shortly after 
Judge McElroy had gone to the City Hall. 

Two of the four kidnapers called at the house, posing as deliverymen 
with a package for Judge McElroy's daughter. When the housekeeper 
opened the door, they forced their way in, and ordered Miss McElroy to 
dress and accompany them. The City Manager's daughter, who had some 
of her father's sturdiness and self-composure, finished her bath, donned 
a becoming summer dress, powdered her nose, adjusted her hair and 
tossed a gay remark to the kidnapers when she joined them. She left the 
house to be gone a day, all of one night and part of the next day. 

Because the kidnapers were unknown in the underworld, the usual 
channels of investigation were closed to the police and the girl's father 
sweated in agony while detectives stumbled over each other seeking 


vainly for a lead. The gang established contact with the Judge, bargained 
with him by telephone and demanded sixty thousand dollars. He argued 
them down to thirty thousand dollars, and Johnny Lazia took over the 
task of collecting the ransom from his friends and followers among the 

Reporters who visited the home found the place crowded with detec- 
tives, politicians and personal friends. They also found a McElroy they 
had never seen before, a gentle, pathetic old man. He was surrounded by 
a large group of his political cronies who attempted to distract him with 
campaign stories and jokes. The Judge held his head in his hands, 
staring at the floor. 

"You know, gentlemen," he said, "this is the first time in my life that 
I have been unable to even put forth an effort. My Mary! I can't help 
her." He began to weep. 

There was a stir in the home when T. J. Pendergast arrived in person 
to express his sympathy to the Judge. 

When the final call came from the kidnapers, the Judge and his son 
left in a car to deliver the money at the appointed place. They dashed 
out together again when a telephone call informed them that Miss 
McElroy had been released on a highway near a golf club in Kansas, 
about four miles west of the Missouri state line. They returned her to her 
home Sunday afternoon. She was weary, begrimed and breathless with 
excitement but otherwise apparently unharmed. 

Faced with this challenge to Home Rule, the police went to work to 
make an example of the punks. The pursuit of the four amateurs was 
efficient, but one got away. The prosecution of the three in hand was 
swift and ruthless. Sentence of death was meted out to the leader of the 
band, one of his accomplices was given a life term and the other got a 
term of eight years behind bars. 

Three days after the McElroy kidnaping, the roving big-time criminals 
entered upon their last major offensive in the Middle West, a reign of 
terror that continued more than a year until Pretty Boy Floyd and Public 
Enemy No. i John Dillinger were run to earth and slain. It began some 
forty miles from Kansas City in the Kansas state prison at Lansing where 
eleven convicts broke up a Memorial Day baseball game, picking a tense 
moment when the score stood two to two between the Topeka and Leav- 


en worth Legion teams in the fourth inning. They kidnaped Warden Kirk 
Prather and two guards as hostages, commandeered motor cars and 
roared away with a flourish of rifles and shotguns. Harvey Bailey and 
Wilbur Underbill were the ringleaders of the desperate band that staged 
this sensational break. The fugitives headed southward toward Okla- 
homa's Cookson Hills, refuge of the outlaws of the period. Underbill 
wanted to kill the hostages but Bailey calmed him down. Five of the con- 
victs were recaptured in the manhunt that followed, the warden and the 
two guards were rescued. The rest of the crew, including Bailey and Un- 
derbill, disappeared to join up with other desperadoes in the wave of 
depredations that mounted steadily in subsequent months. 

High point in the crime tide was reached in Kansas City with the 
Union Station Massacre the morning of June 17, 1933, when five persons 
were slain. 

The stage was set the night before when two of the Middle West's 
most notorious killers, Pretty Boy Floyd and Adam Richetti, drove into 
town under very peculiar circumstances. They had spent the day riding 
across a large part of Missouri with Sheriff Jack Killingsworth of Polk 
County, whom they had captured early in the morning at Bolivar. The 
Sheriff just happened to drop into the garage of Richetti's brother in 
Bolivar, and found the bandits waiting there while their car was being 
repaired. They took another car, put the Sheriff in as hostage and fled. At 
Clinton, Missouri, they stopped to pick up another citizen, one Mr. 
Walter Griffith, who was impressed into service as chauffeur. While a 
wild hunt formed in their rear, they traveled in leisure and caution 
toward Kansas City. While Richetti filled himself with liquor, cursed* 
roared threats and occasionally napped, Pretty Boy Floyd solemnly lec- 
tured Sheriff Killingsworth on the meanness of peace officers who 
hounded outlaws into crime and kept them separated from their f amilies, 
and Sheriff Killingsworth tried not to look bored or disapproving at this 
old number. The lecture and trip ended at 10 P.M. Sheriff Killingsworth 
and Citizen Griffith were released in the West Bottoms while Floyd and 
Richetti retired to a Kansas City hideout for the night. 

They did not get much rest, for they were summoned to an interview 
with another killer, Verne C. Miller, at a meeting which, according to 
Federal government investigators, was arranged by Johnny Lazia. The 


government's story of this fantastic enterprise relates that Miller on that 
same night approached Lazia with the request for a couple of alert and 
reliable trigger men for an important assignment. It was said that Lazia 
hastily declined to furnish any of his men for the adventure but referred 
Miller to the two highly recommended gunmen who had just arrived in 
the Home Rule city. 

Miller had been living quietly in Kansas City for several weeks before 
this day, putting up in style in a Dutch Colonial house at 6612 Edgevale 
Road and not attracting much attention in this highly respectable neigh- 
borhood. The only thing about him that caused comment was Rex, a 
large and unfriendly yellow cur, which served as his bodyguard. Miller's 
vacation at this spot ended when the telephone lines between Hot 
Springs, Arkansas, Joplin, Missouri, Chicago and Kansas City began to 
buzz with the news in gangland code that Federal agents had captured 
Frank Nash, the bank and train robber who escaped from the golf 
course a year earlier when Harvey Bailey was captured. On these wires, 
the plot was hatched to deliver Nash when he arrived in Kansas City the 
morning of June 17, 1933, from Hot Springs, on the way to the Federal 
prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, under a heavy guard of officers. The 
phone calls informed Miller that he would need strong assistance in 
making the delivery, hence the interview with Floyd and Richetti. 

The massacre occurred in the parking lot in front of the Union Station 
a few minutes after Nash, in manacles, and attended by seven officers, 
walked out of the station. Miller and Floyd were armed with sub-ma- 
chine guns, and Richetti had an automatic pistol. They had stationed 
themselves to command the Special Agent's car in which Nash was to be 
loaded for the scheduled dash to Leavenworth. Miller, it is said, started 
to approach the machine with a demand that the prisoner be freed but 
one of the officers fired, wounding Floyd in the shoulder, and immedi- 
ately the outlaws opened fire, killing four officers and Nash, and wound- 
ing two special agents. Two Kansas City police officers were among the 
dead; the others were Special Agent R. J. CafFrey of the F.B.L and an 
Oklahoma police chief. 

The three killers vanished swiftly in their automobile but did not leave 
the city immediately. Their departure was as remarkable as their en- 
trance, and a detailed account o their movements may be found in the 


government's files. Chief witness for the government on this point was 
Michael James LaCapra, alias Jimmy Needles, a figure in the Kansas 
City underworld, who quarreled with Lazia not long after the massacre 
occurred. He stated that Lazia arranged an escort for Floyd and Richetti 
the second night after the murders. This service, he said, was arranged 
by Verne Miller, who walked boldly downtown the night of the crime 
looking for Lazia and finally found him with some of his cronies in the 
Union Station restaurant. They had a private interview within a few 
hundred feet of the scene of the massacre of the June morning, and then 
Miller vamoosed, leaving the city alone the next day. A physician was 
called to treat Floyd, who had lost considerable blood from his wounded 
shoulder, and then a conference was held to determine whether he was 
able to undertake a flight/LaCapra said this question was settled to the 
satisfaction of all present when Pretty Boy asked for a machine gun^ 
swung it into a firing position and declared he was able to operate it ef- 
ficiently. Then, said LaCapra, a party of North Side gangsters was named 
by Lazia to see that Floyd and Richetti got safely out of the city. 

LaCapra's version was not made public until more than a year after 
the Union Station affair, but the murders provoked an immediate re- 
action against Lazia and the Home Rule order. The agitation that revived 
the income tax evasion case against the North Side chief, developed in 
this period. Federal authorities instituted a vigorous investigation of 
charges of police laxity in this case while rounding up a large group of 
conspirators in the attempted delivery of Frank Nash. 

Meanwhile, the roving bandits kept things stirred up round about, 
the furor extending over five states. Harvey Bailey and Machine Gun 
Kelly took over the main show a month later, in July, 1933, with the kid- 
naping of Charles F. Urschel, Oklahoma City oil man, for two hundred 
thousand dollars. That crime entailed no killings but had many extraor- 
dinary angles, extending from a hideout in Texas to a pay-off in Kansas 
City. Part of the ransom money, seven hundred dollars, was traced to 
Ferris Anthon, a member of the Lusco mob of Kansas City. Although 
this was a smalt part of the loot, it drew wide attention, for Ferris An- 
thon was a central figure in the next violent explosion that brought a. 
'crisis for the Police Department and the North Side Democratic Club. 

City gang rivalry produced this failure in crime control, and a dispute 


over alcohol rights apparently was the issue. The difference reached a 
blazing peak on one of the city's residential boulevards at one fifteen 
o'clock the morning of August 12, 1933, at a moment when Sheriff Tom 
, Bash of Jackson County arrived on the scene, gossiping with some friends 
in a car but ready for action. 

A few minutes earlier, Sheriff Bash had left an ice-cream social given 
by the Co-Operettes, ladies auxiliary of the Co-Operative Club. The 
Sheriff attended this function both as a friend of the Co-Operettes and in 
his official capacity to provide protection for the receipts from the lawn 
party. Following a pleasant and successful evening, the Bash party 
headed north in a car containing the Sheriff's wife and a fourteen-year- 
old girl, as well as the Sheriff and a deputy, who was driving. They were 
taking the receipts to the Bash home near Armour Boulevard but stopped 
when they heard shots on entering the boulevard from Forest Avenue. 

The shots came from a sub-machine gun a block away where Ferris 
Anthon was slain in front of an apartment hotel. The assassins fled in a 
car, east on Armour. Sheriff Bash seized his riot gun from the floor of 
his car and dashed out to intercept the killers. They fired on him and he 
returned the fire, killing two gangsters in the car. Their automobile 
careened into the Bash automobile while a man on foot ran toward the 
Sheriff, firing a revolver as he approached. He exhausted his bullets and 
cringed in terror, pleading for his life. Sheriff Bash spared his assailant 
who, upon arrest, was found to be Charles Gargotta, a Lazia lieutenant, 
interrupted in the midst of an assignment to maintain underworld dis- 

Police produced a witness to save Gargotta, for some time at least. 
The rescuer was an officer who perjured himself when the gunman was 
first tried for attempting to kill the Sheriff. This officer, who later was 
given a four-year term for perjury, testified that he found the weapon 
which Gargotta was accused of firing, a hundred feet from the scene of 
the shooting, so the jury was encouraged to believe that the gangster was 
unarmed when he faced the Sheriff. Gargotta remained at liberty until 
changed conditions moved him to plead guilty to assault with intent to 
kill Tom Bash. 

Sheriff Bash, a Democrat of the Rabbit faction in fural Jackson County, 


had little time in the following months to spend with his famous Mis- 
souri foxhounds and the long-eared mules he loved. He took a large hand 
in the investigation of the Union Station massacre and other crimes that 
followed, and joined the cross-country hunt for Pretty^ Boy Floyd. He 
was a few miles away in one of the pursuit parties when Floyd was 
cornered and slain on a farm in Ohio in October, 1934. 

Johnny missed the excitement of Pretty Boy's last stand owing to the 
run of events which distracted the North Side chieftain in Kansas City 
in the first half of 1934. In the first two months of the year, Lazia was 
preoccupied with efforts to defend himself against the income tax evasion 
charges that had been revived by the Federal government, and this 
ended when Judge Merrill E. Otis sentenced Lazia to the Christian 
County jail for one year on the first count, repeated the sentence on the 
second count, but granted probation in that case, and fined him a total of 
five thousand dollars. 

Lazia remained at liberty, on appeal from the jail sentence, but not 
at peace. His trial was followed quickly by the disturbances of the city 
election campaign, and this turmoil extended well into spring. The new 
arrangement under the Otto Higgins police administration had hardly 
been well established when July brought the final turn for Johnny 

Curiously, this roaring climax came at a moment of calm when it 
appeared that the crisis for Home Rule and the public peace of the Middle 
West had passed its zenith. Under the energetic efforts of the F.B 1., the 
highway patrol and county peace officers, the threat from the desperadoes 
of the road was rapidly dissipated. All of the outlaws who escaped in the 
Lansing prison Memorial Day break were dead or captured. The Bar- 
rows were dead. Harvey Bailey and Machine Gun Kelly were in prison 
for life. Wilbur Underbill's brief life ended in the electric chair in Okla- 
homa. Verne Miller had been rubbed out by an Ohio gang. And Pretty 
Boy Floyd's days were numbered. It looked as if the Home Rule oper- 
ators could count on having nothing more troublesome to deal with 
than local disturbers of the underworld order. 

Lazia stayed downtown late the night of July 9, visiting various haunts 
and finding everything running smoothly. When he finally turned for 
home he took a roundabout ride. He wasn't expecting trouble,"! or he was 


accompanied only by his wife, Marie, and his faithful bodyguard, Ca- 
rollo, who sat together in the front seat. 

The Lazia car turned into the driveway of the Park Central Hotel, a 
new apartment building at 300 East Armour Boulevard, and came to a 
stop under the hotel canopy at approximately three o'clock the morning 
of July 10. Lazia alighted from the rear seat and had just opened the 
front door to assist his wife out when the night peace of this South Side 
neighborhood was shattered by the drilling blast of a sub-machine gun. 
One bullet almost struck Mrs. Lazia but the stream was accurately cen- 
tered on Johnny. It was discovered later that the gun was one of the 
weapons used in the Union Station massacre. 

Before he fell, Lazia shouted a warning to his bodyguard. 

"Get Marie out of here," he screamed. "Step on it, Charley." 

Charley stepped on it, racing the sedan out of the driveway and al- 
most colliding with the car carrying the fleeing assassins at the inter- 
section of Armour and Robert Gillham Road. 

Lazia was eleven hours dying in the hospital to which he was rushed. 
Boss Pendergast ordered that everything possible be done to save him, 
but three blood transfusions and nine physicians were not enough. While 
his life ebbed, Brother John's boys,, impassive and grim-visaged youths of 
indeterminable age, gathered in clusters in front of the hospital and 
watched the line of politicians, businessmen, public officials, relatives 
and friends of their leader moving in and out. 

One of the stricken man's last statements before he lost consciousness 
was addressed to Dr. D. M. Nigro, a friend and a figure in the Democratic 

"Doc," he said, "what I can't understand is why anybody would do 
this to me. Why to me, to Johnny Lazia, who has been the friend of 

'Dr. Nigro hurried to the telephone with a message to Pendergast that 
was heard by a Star reporter. 

"He is very low, Boss," the physician said. "He has spoken of you, Mr. 
Pendergast, and says he loves you as always.** 

Sevea thousand persons stood in line to attend the wake for Johnny 
Lazia. Thousands overflowed the grounds of his sister's modest home and 
rode in the funeral procession. T. J. Pendergast, Judge McElroy, Police 


Director Higgins and Mike Ross were conspicuous among the prominent 
citizens who rubbed shoulders with the obscure friends of Brother John. 
Miss Mary McElroy rode gravely in the funeral procession. Pedestrians 
and motorists stopped and gawked. 

The police gave perhaps their most strenuous performance in an ef- 
fort to solve the crime and apprehend the killers. Members of the Lusco 
gang were rounded up and put through the showup on the theory that 
the assassination had been in reprisal for the spot murder of Anthon or 
marked a new stage in the rivalry between the Kansas City gangs. Lusco's 
men yielded no leads and police turned to the theory that the crime was 
the work of a local bandit gang which suspected that Lazia had turned 
up some of its members to the police in the effort to suppress the "rough 
stuff." Then they theorized that it was the work of an out-of-town gang 
which could get no concessions in Kansas City. The police made no 

The murder of Lazia was never officially solved but police. Federal 
men and newspapermen pieced together bits of information and under- 
world gossip to form the legend that four men carried out the assassina- 
tion and that Lazia had drawn their wrath by obstructing their racket 
operations in Kansas City. All four disappeared and at least three of 
them are not expected to be seen again. If it is true, as some authorities 
believe, that they were overtaken by gang vengeance, the hand of under- 
world justice had an unusually wide spread. One of the alleged assassins 
was Michael James LaCapra, alias Jimmy Needles, who gave the infor- 
mation that involved Lazia in the Union Station massacre negbtiations. 
His body was found in August, 1935? near Platekill, Long Island, where 
it had been dumped in typical gang fashion. Another one of the four 
came to the attention of the Kansas City police when he was wounded in 
a gun battle on a downtown street and later found refuge in the General 
Hospital. Before the investigation in his case had proceeded far, he was 
spirited away from his hospital bed by an individual dressed as a police 
officer and the last heard of him is the rumor that he was turned over to 
two men who took him for a ride. Details concerning the third man are 
less complete. He simply vanished. It appears that the fourth man got 
away and he may still be living in a West Coast city. On the way west, 
he was credited with shooting his way out of an ambush in Colorado, 


killing a Kansas City gangster in a party that was trying to capture him. 
There have been no further developments since that gunman's body 
was found. 

While the story of Johnny Lazia trailed off in whispers of sudden 
death, his followers rallied under a new leader. Long before the whispers 
died it was clear that the North Side organization was still a power in 
Kansas City. 

Old Missouri 


HARRY S. TRUMAN is accustomed to having political offices he didn't 
seek thrust upon him, and Tom Pendergast has been given perhaps more 
credit than he deserves for bringing up a future President of the United 
States. Mr. Truman was Uncle Tom's second or third choice for the job 
of United States senator in 1934, and he wore the boss collar more lightly 
than any important figure ever identified with the machine. The collar 
didn't chafe very often for the two good reasons that the Independence 
man had a strong mind of his own together with a highly developed sense 
of party regularity, and Tom Pendergast was able to see and appreciate 
the rare quality of this combination. The result was that Truman made 
liis faithfulness to Pendergast a political legend and the Boss exercised his 
control in such a way that Truman was able to say in 1939, after the Pen- 
dergast crash: "Tom Pendergast never asked me to do a dishonest deed. 
He knew I wouldn't do it if he asked it. He was always my friend. He 
was always honest with me, and when he made a promise he kept it." 

It is possible that Pendergast was thinking of Truman when he made 
his statement in the 1933 contention over the gambling issue, explaining 
the nature of his organization, which, like the world, contained both the 
good and bad of -life "among them are the best and others who take 

For twelve years Truman had been performing important services 
for his party with a modesty that made him almost self-effacing among; 
politicians. In fact he was so slow about pushing himself forward for 
special consideration that Uncle Tom took rather more rime than he 
should have, in recognizing Truman's particular merits. 



The Pendergasts needed Harry Truman quite as much as he needed a 
job when in 1922 they supported him for his first elective office judge 
of the County Court from the Eastern District of Jackson County. He 
was picked for that place not by Boss Tom but by Jimmy Pendergast, 
nephew of old Alderman Jim, and the indorsement was given by Mike 
Pendergast, father of Jimmy and Tom's older brother, who had charge 
of Goat affairs in the county precincts outside Kansas City. 

Their political association grew out of the soldiers* friendship of Jim 
Pendergast and Harry Truman when they were fellow officers in the 
First World War. With the customary Goat foresight, Mike Pendergast 
sized up the future candidate from Independence when he visited his son 
in Camp Doniphan when the Jackson County men were training in an 
Officer's School. He heard more favorable reports on Truman when the 
Jackson Countians went overseas with the Thirty-fifth Division, in which 
Truman served as commanding officer of Battery D of the One Hundred 
and Twenty-ninth Field Artillery. Jim was a lieutenant under Truman 
before he became captain of Battery A of the One Hundred and Thirtieth, 
which fought along side the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth. When the 
boys came home, one of the men who figured oftenest in their stories 
was Captain Harry of Battery D, the Baptist farmer from the Grand- 
view neighborhood who established a complete fellowship with a rugged 
outfit of Kansas City Irishmen on the muddy roads of the Vosges, St. 
Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. 

In the first years after the war, Harry Truman was not forgotten by 
the Pendergasts while he turned to business enterprise with his Jewish 
friend and war buddy, Eddie Jacobson, in a haberdashery store on 
Twelfth Street. Truman, spruce, smiling and efficient, made fyis store a 
headquarters for his old comrades of Battery D, many of them Legion 
members who were beginning to take an important interest in political 
affairs. The store failed after two years, a casualty of the depression of 
1921, leaving Truman with a debt of about twenty thousand dollars 
which he refused to dodge through bankruptcy proceedings and finally 
paid off many years later. 

Captain Harry went back to Independence to consider what to do 
with his future. 

Boss Pendergast looked him over and quickly approved the selection 


made by Mike and son Jimmy. The Pendergast family friendship was not 
the only large factor in this decision, since a strong movement for Tru- 
man had developed in Legion circles in Independence. So the Boss was 
impressed at the outset that this countryman did not need to feel that he 
owed his whole existence to the head of the organization. Even if he 
had been minded to instruct the fledgling candidate in his dudes to the 
Chief, Uncle Tom was in no strong position to do much dictating to 
Truman in 1922. The Ku Klux Klan was then riding high over Jackson 
County, raising the flaming cross against the Kansas City Catholics who 
dominated the native Democracy. To meet that threat in the county 
precincts, stronghold of the two-hundred-per-cent Americans, the organ- 
ization needed a man who was a Protestant, a high Mason and a war 
veteran. Harry Truman, captain of Battery D, Baptist, Mason and a mem- 
ber of a pioneer county family, met the qualifications almost to a unique 

In addition to the Klan matter, the Goats at this time were having 
Rabbit trouble in an acute form. Under the aggressive direction of Mike 
Pendergast, the Kansas City faction was making a determined effort to 
break Joe Shannon's grip on the county property outside Kansas City. 
That invasion by the Goats had been complicated by the defection of 
Miles Bulger, presiding judge of the County Court, to the Rabbit side. 
Under these circumstances, the addition of Truman to the Goat ticket 
was doubly advantageous to the Pendergasts, for it brought high into 
their circle a man whose Jackson County relatives and background out- 
numbered and antedated those of most of Shannon's crowd among the 

Truman's first race for public office was one of the closest of his career 
and he was almost eliminated in the Democratic primary by his oppo- 
nent, E. E. Montgomery of Blue Springs. His rival challenged the 
'unofficial count, asserting he had won by forty or fifty votes, but the 
official count gave Truman a margin of 282, Despite his slight plurality, 
Truman was credited with having shown exceptional vote-getting ap- 
peal as his victory was won in a Rabbit stronghold. It gave the Goats 
control of the County Court, as both Truman and Henry F. McElroy, 
his colleague on the court from the western district of the county, were 
swept into office in the November election. 


The County Court, an administrative rather than a judicial body of 
three members, exercised an authority over patronage that made it a 
prize of the spoils system. Its record during the administration when 
Truman and McElroy represented the majority stands as one of the 
brighter chapters of Courthouse politics. Both of these men were new 
personalities on the political scene, eager to win larger public recog- 
nition and destined for larger things McElroy to become city manager 
of Kansas City in 1926, Truman to go on to the United States Senate 
and the White House. Their reputations were established in their two 
years together on the County Court, when they reduced the deficit left 
by the Bulger regime and otherwise conducted the county's business 
in a fashion that won for them the most ringing indorsement ever given 
up to that time by the Star to a couple of Democrats, They were put 
up for renomination in 1924 and won in the primary over the bitter 
opposition of the Shannon and Bulger factions. Their prospects for 
re-election were bright until Shannon and Bulger decided on the bolt 
which defeated the Democratic county ticket and elected a Republican 
governor in the fall of 1924. 

The Klan vote was also credited with being a large factor in the oppo- 
sition that gave Harry Truman his first and only defeat in an election 
race. Charges that Truman was once a member of the KJan were raised 
by the opposition to Roosevelt and aired in the Hearst press twenty 
years later when Truman was running for vice president. The Kluxers 
themselves were apparently under no delusions about the position of their 
Baptist neighbor who went into business with a Jew and hobnobbed 
with Irish Catholics. 

They approached Truman with a suggestion to join the hooded order 
and Edgar Hinde, postmaster of Independence, has lately told what 
happened. His story appeared in an article on Truman published in 
the Star, April 20, 1945, just after Truman entered the White House. 
Hinde said that in the 1922 campaign a Klan organizer came to him with 
the advice that the cross-burners would support Truman for county 
judge if he joined up with them. 

"I put it up to Truman and he gave me ten dollars for an entrance fee 
cash/* Hinde explained. "I took it down and then the organizer asked 
for a conference in the Hotel Baltimore in Kansas City. There he met 


Harry and said: 'You've got to promise us you won't give a Catholic a 
job if you belong to us and we support you.' 

" 1 won't agree to anything like that/ Harry said. 'I had a Catholic 
battery in the war and if any of those boys need help I'm going to give 
them a job.'" 

"The organizer said, 'We can't take you, then/ and he gave back the 
ten dollars, and that was the end of that." 

So Truman saved ten bucks and was out of a job at the end of 1924. He 
filled in the time working as an organizer for the Kansas City Auto- 
mobile Club, widening his acquaintanceships, building fences and ac- 
quiring useful information on road-building which he put to good 
account two years later. In 1926, Truman wanted to run for county col- 
lector, an office that paid about twenty thousand dollars a year, includ- 
ing salary and fees. Uncle Tom had an older and needier Goat in 
mind for that rich spot. He suggested that Truman run for presiding 
judge of the Court, which carried a fixed salary of less than six thousand 
dollars a year. Truman readily gave up the hope for wealth, and by so 
doing started up the road that led to the White House. He might have 
been the most efficient collector in the county's history, but it is highly 
unlikely that he would then have acquired the reputation and influence 
he did as presiding judge. 

In the eight years while he was the head man in the Courthouse 
years when the Pendergast organization's principal attention was con- 
centrated on affairs in the City Hall Truman had both opportunity and 
freedom to do the things that established the foundations for his rise to 
the Senate and the Presidency. The county highway and building pro- 
gram gave him the chance to make a showing as a planner and builder, 
and he made the most of it. He was favored by circumstances of the time 
in meeting a minimum of political interference. In 1929, Mike Pender- 
gast died, depriving the Kansas City House of its old supervisor of county 
affairs, and Uncle Tom was preoccupied with city, state and national 
affairs. By this time Judge Truman was well established in his own right 
as the county man with the largest prestige and following in the organiza- 
tion. He had initiated the ambitious improvement program that he was 
administering, and had impressed the politicians with his forcef ulness* 
The Boss was showing respect for both Truman's personal integrity and 


his considerable political influence when he let the efficient presiding 
judge have his own way. 

The patronage system on jobs continued to operate in the Courthouse 
during the Truman administration. It was impossible to eliminate po- 
litical favoritism entirely, but the record in public services, letting of con- 
tracts and delivering the goods has stood up under the closest kind of 
partisan scrutiny. 

There was talk of Truman for Congress and Truman for governor and 
the presiding judge's ambition first turned toward Congress. His hopes 
in that direction were raised when the Legislature finally, in 1933, 
adopted the redistricting based on the 1930 census, dividing Jackson 
County into two districts, the Fourth and Fifth. Truman's prospects for 
nomination and election as congressman from the Fourth district were 
bright until Pendergast decided the place should go to C. Jasper Bell, 
who had earned the organization's approval with his work as city coun- 
cilman and Circuit judge. Truman hid his disappointment, which was 
not prolonged. One day not long afterward he received a telephone call 
that left him dizzy, for it conveyed the word that Tom Pendergast re- 
quested him to file his candidacy for the Senate, and not to waste any 
time about it. He didn't delay. 

Harry Truman had just turned fifty when he reached this surprising 
and fateful turn in his life. The decision for Mm hadn't been made by 
Uncle Tom alone. Jimmy Pendergast went to his uncle in behalf of 
Truman's candidacy and another large voice in the matter was that of 
James P. Aylward, chairman of the Democratic County Committee for 
nearly two decades and the Democratic state chairman in 1934. Famed 
as a political strategist and a "maker of men" in public life, Aylward 
acquired wide influence through his ability to work with leaders of both 
factions of the Kansas City Democracy. 

One large factor in the selection of Truman wds the renewal of boss 
rivalry over the senatorship. Pendergast was still smarting from the re- 
versal suffered in the Senate race in 1932, when Bennett C. Clark of 
Bowling Green downed Tom's man, Howell. He was impressed then 
with the public's sensitiveness to the machine tag on a senatorial candi- 
date, and reluctant to stir up that issue again. Ordinarily a senatorship 
was considered largely a prestige affair in boss politics, hardly worth a 


major fight on the machine's part. That was true in an earlier day, when 
Federal patronage and influence didn't cut much cake in local affairs, 
but both Federal power and machine politics had expanded greatly in 
recent years. 

The Kansas City politicians saw that Senator Bennett Clark had begun 
to build himself up as a Missouri boss with his election in 1932. They be- 
came alarmed at the size of his challenge in 1934, when he backed one 
of his followers for the second senatorship from Missouri. They felt that 
if he controlled both posts, then Bennett Clark, and not Tom Pendergast, 
would be the first Missouri boss. 

Actually, the congressional offices always had been more important to a 
local boss than was commonly supposed. One of the things that made 
businessmen tolerant of machine politics was the ability of bosses to pick 
congressmen and senators who appreciated the special interests of busi- 
ness. With the growth of the Federal system through the bureaucracy 
and the courts, the congressional offices assumed much more importance 
in the machine. The boys in the precincts might still consider a justice of 
the peace, a collector's office or a city clerk of more consequence than a 
congressman, but the boss could no longer view the representative so 
lightly. And the whole local organization began to look upon the national 
offices with more respect in the ip3o's. The vast Federal government 
spending program for relief and recovery made influence in Washington 
a matter of unprecedented concern to the home boys. One of the large 
items involved in this operation was the office of state director of the 
WPA, which handled the spending of millions over a period of about 
five years. This office went to a Pendergast lieutenant, Matt Murray, a 
year after the Kansas City organization sent Truman to the Senate to 
challenge the Bennett Clark threat to Goat patronage influence in Wash- 

The call to make the Senate race against Clark's man went to Harry 
Truman because, first, James P. Aylward declined Pendergast's invitation 
to run and recommended Truman instead. There was a report that Pen- 
dergast then tried to interest Joe Shannon, the Rabbit leader, in making 
the Senate race but Shannon eliminated himself because of his age and 
failing health. It is difficult to believe that Pendergast dallied over in- 
dofcement of Truman after his attention was called to die situation 


created by the raiding of Bennett Clark, for Truman was the logical 
candidate in every way. In addition to his admirable qualifications as a 
Missouri farmer, a war veteran, a Legionnaire, a Mason, a Baptist and a 
successful county judge, there were two special points that recommended 
Truman for consideration in 1934; he had established the best record for 
independence of any office-seeker in the boss organization, and he identi- 
fied himself as a strong Roosevelt supporter. Speaking a very different 
language from Senator Reed and some other prominent Kansas City 
Democrats, Truman praised Roosevelt fulsomely, accepted the whole 
New Deal program and exhibited a pronounced cordiality toward organ- 
jzed labor. As state director of Federal re-employment in 1934, he had 
actual contact with some New Dealers and picked up bits of their lan- 
guage. In his opening campaign speech at Columbia, Missouri, before an 
audience of farmers and small-town tradesmen, Truman boldly acclaimed 
the Brain Trusters, and declared the Constitution allowed for much more 
radical measures than any that were undertaken under the program of 
that "great economist and leader, Franklin D. Roosevelt." 

Whether or not he was deliberately selected for that purpose, Harry 
Truman was Uncle Tom's emissary for a reconciliation between Kansas 
City and Washington. After Truman's nomination, indication that 
Roosevelt had been favorably impressed by his new adherent from Jack- 
son County was given when Farley announced that the national party 
leadership would extend some aid to Nominee Truman. Farley would 
not say whether this also meant that Roosevelt looked with more favor 
oo Pendcrgast. For his part, the Kansas City boss would not speak out in 
praise of .Roosevelt, an attitude he maintained to the end. He was too 
proud to court thus openly the favor of the President whom he had con- 
spicuously opposed and privately criticized. In a discussion of his cold- 
ness toward the New Deal reformer, he once explained that he regarded 
William J Bryan as the only "sincere reformer." Uncle Tom had lost 
his interest in reform long before FJD JR. appeared and he couldn't revive 
it for expediency's sake because, as he described himself, he was "no per- 
sonal opportunist." His Democratic idealism was summed up in the 
phrase, "You can't beat five billion dollars/* a comment on New Deal 
appropriations for relief purposes. 

Noac tbe less, despite die Boss's firm stand on his aatircfarm pria- 


ciplcs, the Truman nomination was managed throughout in a way to 
suggest that this was an effort to convince Mr. Roosevelt and his friends 
that the Kansas City Democrats were good New Dealers. In the process, 
the Kansas City organization gave a sharp rebuff to former Senator Jim 
Reed, who had returned to the attack on Roosevelt and was laying the 
basis for the Anti-Roosevelt Jeffersonian crusade which Reed and a few 
other Democratic has-beens promoted in 1936. 

While Truman gave serious attention to the business of showing that 
he shared none of the Reed sentiments on Roosevelt, he dealt lightly and 
pleasantly with the machine issue. In fact, he announced that he was go- 
ing to make his campaign "just a lot of fun" and he did have some sport 
answering the charges that he was a boss man. His principal opponents 
were Jacob L. (Tuck) Milligan of Richmond, Missouri, and John }. 
Cochran of St. Louis, both of them congressmen seeking larger recogni* 
tion from the voters. When they branded Truman as a creature of Uncle 
Tom's, the Independence man smilingly reminded the voters how eager 
and happy his opponents had been to get the Pendcrgast indorsement 
two years earlier in the congressional races. Adding his own bit to the 
boss picture, Truman warned the voters that Tuck Milligan was a stooge 
for Senator Clark. 

The fact was, of course, that all of the important candidates in all the 
important races were picked or backed by groups which operated in the 
manner of machines and contained men with boss ambitions* Senator 
Clark, contender for the iSJo. i position in the Missouri Democracy, was 
the principal supporter of Milligan. Prominent among the backers of 
Cochran were Bill Igoe, St. Louis boss, and Mayor Bernard L, Dickmann, 
who was inflating himself with ideas about running for governor in 

Candidate Milligan invaded Pendergast's home grounds in the last 
week of the campaign, accompanied by Senator Clark, and raised the 
boss and ghost vote questions before a large rally in Kansas City. 
Ridiculing Truman's charge that he, Milligan, was controlled by Sena- 
tor Clark, Milligan said: 

"When we exploded those statements, he journeyed away down to 
Louisiana to find Huey P. Long and said he would control me. 

**Yon in Kansas City do&'t have to travel down to Louisiana to find 


the man who will control Harry Truman if he ever becomes a member 
o the United States Senate. He will be controlled by the same gentle- 
man who has controlled him as presiding elder of the Jackson County 
Court, Why, if Harry ever goes to the Senate, he will grow calluses 
on his ears listening on the long distance telephone to the orders of 
his boss." 

Prominent in the gathering were Democrats who figured: in the 1934 
city campaign against the Pendergast organization. The crowd roared 
its approval when the candidate assailed the practice o padded voting 
and registration in Kansas City, declaring: 

"The dishonest ballot, if continued, will destroy this government. I 
believe the man who perpetrates that practice upon the people should 
be treated as any other criminal. He not only violates the laws of the 
state, but he also violates the Federal laws." 

Watching the race was the candidate's brother, Maurice M. Milligan, 
then Federal district attorney in Kansas City on an appointment recom- 
mended ,by Senator Clark. Maurice Milligan directed the vote fraud 
prosecutions two years later which had such a devastating effect on 
tiie Kansas City organization. 

Jackson County Democrats gave Truman some 137,000 votes and 
allowed his three opponents together less than 11,000; the vote from 
Pendergast's stronghold provided the margin for Truman's victory. 
He was nominated by more than 40,000 over the second man in the 
race, Cochran. The day after the primary, newspaper political writers 
declared fhat the results established Pendergast as the undisputed boss 
from one end of the state to the other. 

\ While the experts studied the returns, Kansas City took a long second 
look at the Jackson County man who was going to fill the Senate seat 
whici^had been vacated by Reed in 1929. He didn't have any of Reed's 
color in fact he seemed to be about as neutral as the gray suits he liked 
^o wear. Despite the dudey effect of his ties and suits, he had the lean, 
iajd look of a Missouri farmer, a familiar type except when he smiled, 
wtiich was often, and tlien the wide grin beneath the sharp nose and the 
Bright eyes flashing through his glasses gave him the air of a gay and 
Irisky owh Hs couldn't orate. He was unable to strike di&matic poses 
and didg't seem indioed to try. He didn't roar and beat his bjreast 


he was accused of being an errand boy for the Boss. He merely smiled 
and went about his business with an even tread. It didn't seem likely 
that he would cut much of a figure in the Senate and be talked of for 
the Presidency, as Jim Reed was. 

Harry S. Truman went on to win the Senate seat easily, defeating 
the Republican incumbent by approximately 265,000 votes. Pender- 
gast's bid for more consideration from the Washington politicians was 
Truman plus a record off-year vote from Jackson County, The experts 
on presidential possibilities, surveying the new crop of 1934, passed over 
Truman without pause while picking out Alf Landon of Kansas, who 
looked like a new Coolidge and was elected Governor for a second term. 
The experts are hardly to be blamed for failing to pay more attention to 
the county judge from Independence in '34, for Mr. Truman wasn't 
trying to be prophetic in that campaign when he declared: "I intend, as 
a member of the Senate, to use all of my power to follow Roosevelt 
to the end of the New Deal." 


ON THE twenty-second of January, 1935, Tom Pendergast met an insur- 
ance man in the privacy of a Chicago hotel room to work out final terms 
in the settlement of a matter that became known as the Second Missouri 
Compromise. It involved an item of nearly ten million dollars, a fund 
that was built up during litigation over the fire insurance rates charged 
Missouri policyholders. As everyone knows, the first Missouri Com- 
promise was the arrangement under which the Show Me State entered 
the Union in 1821, a complicated deal with a loophole for the extension 
of slavery which led on to the War Between the States. As quite a few 
people know, the second deal in 1935 enriched the Kansas City boss by 
$315,000 and brought Him to disaster. However, not many persons have as 
clear a picture of the second compromise as they do of the first, for the 
Pendergast operation was a bit more complicated than the 1821 business. 
The 1935 taeeting in Chicago opened with Charles R. Street, vice- 
president of the Great American Insurance Company, offering Pender- 
settlement of the Missouri irate litigation. Specifically, 


what he wanted was to have the State of Missouri abandon the fight on 
the proposed increase^ in insurance rates and break up the large pot of 
disputed premiums that had been collected during the controversy. The 
issue had started in 1929, under a Republican state administration, when 
the companies served notice on the then state superintendent of insur- 
ance that their rates were being upped sixteen and two-thirds per cent. 
When the policyholders and the superintendent protested against this 
large hike the companies went to court to enjoin state interference with 
the new rates. Pending final decision of the courts the sixteen and two- 
thirds excess in premiums was impounded and by 1935 this fund 
amounted to* more than nine million dollars. In addition to this prize in 
the Federal Court, there was a smaller fund of nearly two million dollars 
impounded in action in the state courts. 

Mr. Pendergast was not interested at all in this kind of small change, 
so Street raised the ante to $500,000 and the Kansas City boss accepted. 
However, he was slow in getting action started and the Street offer was 
hiked to $750,000 in the interests of speed when the Chicago insurance 
executive and the Missouri politician met again in a Chicago hotel, March 
28, 1935. 

Action was obtained through R. Emmet O'Malley, Pendergast's long- 
time personal friend and associate in insurance enterprise, who was ap- 
pointed state superintendent of insurance in 1933 by Governor Park. He 
was the one who brought Pendergast and Street together through ar- 
rangements with A. L. McCormack, St. Louis insurance man, then presi- 
dent of the Missouri Insurance Agents* Association. 

Pendergast and O'Malley began to deliver on their part of the bargain 
immediately after McCormack delivered the first installment of the 
$750,000 on May 9, 1935. McCormack arrived in a plane from Chicago 
with $50,000 in cash in a bag, went directly to the Jackson Democratic 
Club at 1908 Main Street and turned the loot over to Pendergast, who 
put the money in his safe. Six days later the insurance compromise was 
put in writing at a conference in the Hotel Muehlebach, attended by 
O'Malley, McCormack, Street, officials and attorneys of the fire insurance 
companies. The instrument was signed only after O'Malley personally 
took a copy of the agreement to 1908 Main Street for Big Tom's final 


The second installment was then due and McCormack returned to 
Chicago, went direct to Street's office, picked up $50,000 and delivered it 
to 1908 Main Street, Kansas City. Pendergast this time kept only $5,000, 
directed McCormack to deliver $22,500 to O'Malley and keep $22,500 
himself, which he did. 

The next payment was not made until after the Federal Court in 
Kansas City, three judges sitting, February i, 1936, entered an order to 
distribute the impounded premiums according to the compromise agree- 
ment. Eighty per cent of this fund went to the companies, twenty per 
cent to the policyholders. The costs, which were large, came from the 
companies* share and included an unexplained item of five per cent to 
cover the fix. The original $100,500 bribe money had been assembled by 
Street from checks made out to him by fourteen companies in the 
Missouri litigation, and he converted these checks into the currency that 
was turned over to McCormack. After the court approved the compro- 
mise, Street directed each company to issue checks to him totaling $330,- 
ooo, which he converted into currency that was handed to McCormack in 
Streets office for delivery to Pendergast. McCormack put the fortune in 
a Gladstone bag, boarded the Santa Fe Chief for Kansas City, April i, 
1936, arrived in Kansas City at eight forty-five o'clock that night and 
went to Pendergast's home at 5650 Ward Parkway, The Boss counted the 
crisp bills, kept $250,000 and handed $80,000 back to McCormack with 
the order that he turn over $40,000 to O'Malley and keep $40,000 for him- 
self, which he did. 

By this time $430,000 of the agreed price had been delivered, $305,000 
to Pendergast and $125,000 divided equally between O'Malley and Mc- 
Cormack. One further payment, a small one, was made later to Pender- 
gast. Some $300,000 of the agreed price was never delivered. 

It was all very slick and high toned. The insurance executives simply 
made out a check to their trustee for some necessary expenses, and what 
lie did with it was his business. They didn't have to know that the Kansas 
City boss and aa official of the State of Missouri were paid off, they re- 
covered about five million dollars for their companies and the policy- 
holders got a little something. No one had to worry much except the 
f o^r principals in the pay-off and their number included a protector who 
appeared to be invulnerable. 



Tom Pendergast was not, however, a man at peace. Perhaps he wasn't 
worried about the well-hidden insurance deal, but he was deeply troubled 
about something, in fact several things. A reporter who saw him in this 
period between the campaigns of '34 and '36 was startled by the change 
in him. He was heavier and grayer, and his eyes carried a sick look. , 
His two hundred and forty pounds made him look shorter than the five 
feet nine that he measured. When he sat at his desk at 1908 Main Street, 
giving orders and answering questions, he was still the powerful Boss 
whose eyes and voice intimidated all others in the room, but the marks 
of age were painfully visible on him, and within him was a great tension. 

Uncle Tom was actually a much sicker man than anyone guessed at 
the time. In addition to his old intestinal ailment, to the fat, high blood 
pressure and nervous strain, he was suffering from an acute attack of 
gambling fever. The destructive force of this last malady was not widely 
appreciated until several years later, when the government presented 
some interesting data on the gambling mania together with its detailed 
account of the insurance bribe and Pendergast's fantastic income tax 
dodges. The gambling fever reached its highest point in the man most 
responsible for the rise of the gambling traffic and he became the classic 
illustration of the development of an ancient social pastime into a major 
vice. In a community of suckers, he was The Sucker. Some of his friends 
estimated that he gambled away six million dollars in the last decade of 
his big play, and the government evidence indicated that in 1935 he ac- 
tually wagered two million dollars on the horse races and lost six hundred 
thousand dollars. It was believed that his losses were one of the chief 
things that decided him to arrange the insurance compromise in that 
same year. His fascination in the turf game interfered more and more 
with his business and political affairs. It made him shut himself away 
from callers in the afternoons while he sat in a room with headphone 
clamped to this ears following the reports of the ponies. A bet of five 
thousand dollars on a race was common with him. 

As with everything else, Pendergast was very clever about hiding his 
fever and his losses. He had to Jiide them from some of his associates, 
from his wife and children, and from Uncle Sam. He handled every r 
thing in cash, and worked out an elaborate system of dummies andJS^r 
titious names to cover up the sources of income and 0i#go*jkit operation 


of this size could not be kept entirely secret, and talk about the fabulous 
Sucker in Kansas City spread over the town, the state and the country. 
And with the gamblers' gossip, beginning some time early in 1936, went 
the whisper of a big pay-off in insurance. 

The bribe whisper followed Torn Pendergast to Saratoga, to New 
York, to London and back, to Philadelphia and home to Missouri. It 
grew very loud in the campaign that immediately followed the Second 
Missouri Compromise and opened the final assault on the Boss. That last 
engagement was a protracted affair, however, a series of battles rather 
than one big smash. Tom Pendergast, cornered, sick and a doomed man, 
was still a giant in the political arena. His $305,000 from the insurance 
bribers was soon gone down the same drain with his other bets and the 
Federal investigation that was to expose every step in this carefully con- 
cealed transaction began in the same month that he received the $250,000 
installment from Agent McCormack. Events thereafter moved with a 
rush and Pendergast's rally for the concluding rounds started in the 
shadow of death. 


THE BRIBE rumors got thoroughly mixed up with ghost talk in the August 
and November campaigns of 1936. This whispering company made a 
disturbance that reached to y Washington and reverberated through elec- 
tion contests and court fights for the next four years. The new addition 
to this spfectral chorus, the ghost votes, was approximately as active and 
destructive as the pay-off spooks. Between them, the insurance bribe and 
election fraud scandals of '36 eventually rounded out the Pendergast 
cycle. Although they figured sensationally in the '36 campaigns, they did 
not have their grand climax until somewhat later. Meanwhile, the po- 
litical show out front was dominated by a third factor which probably 
had as much to do as any one thing with the Pendergast debacle. 

This third phenomenon was the entry into the 1936 campaign of the 
apple man from Louisiana, Missouri, Lloyd Stark, developer of Stark's 
DeliciouSj who came forward with Big Tom's blessing and shortly there- 
after turned into the Jack the Giant Killer of the reform. Stark won the 
Pemocratic nominatioa for governor with Pendergast delivering another 


record vote from Jackson County and went on to win the final election 
with the Democratic ballots in Pendergast's county establishing an all- 
time high. 

This Mr. Stark was strictly an apple knocker despite the fact that 
he gave a deceptive opening number as an apple polisher. He had first 
solicited Pendergast's support for his gubernatorial ambition in 1932 and 
received a cold reception. He came back in 1936 and got what he wanted. 
This tSme he was loaded with indorsements, testimonials and pledges o 
support from Democratic politicians in the state before he called at 
1908 Main Street, and it was plain that Mr. Pendergast had to take the 
Louisiana nurseryman if he desired to avoid a fight against a formidable 
antagonist. He decided to win the apple man's gratitude. 

Stark did not respond naturally to the old 1908 Main treatment. A 
severe, humorless man with the eyes of a zealot and the mouth of a 
Puritan, he gave all of the Kansas City boys a chill and they quickly 
abandoned hope of warming him up. A man with a jaw as ugly as Big 
Tom% and something of an eccentric on physical culture, Stark didn't 
seem to know when he was being intimidated. A former Navy officer 
and a former Army officer as well, he knew a thing or two himself 
about the strategy of infiltration and surprise, insinuating himself into 
the good graces of the St. Louis Democratic machine at the same time 
he was working the old hocus-pocus on the Kansas City machine. And 
he was an ingrate. He showed no appreciation at all when the Goats 
produced the damnedest biggest primary vote ever counted in Jackson 
County to win the nomination for Stark. He wasn't impressed when 
Tom followed that with the all-time number in the November election 
a vote total which suggested that Kansas City had a population two 
hundred thousand greater than was allowed by the Federal census, and 
one which could be interpreted as a profound tribute from the House of 
Pendergast to the new governor, or a warning to him of the political 
might of his backer, or both. , 

In explaining Pendergast's mistake in accepting Stark for governor, it 
shpuld be noted that the Boss was not his usual self. The deterioration in 
his health had accelerated in recent months and in June of 1936 his 
condition became desperate. He hit a big bumpjshortly after he re- 
turned from Europe on the Queen Mary, June 2* His homecoming was 


noted by Treasury agents ahd one link that connected him with the 
Missouri insurance bribe was closed. 

He had returned in time for the Democratic National Convention, 
which was held in June, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pendergast took a suite on 
the twenty-ninth floor of the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, and received 
Missouri politicians and national party figures there while waiting for 
the convention to open, June 23. He commuted from New York to 
Philadelphia the first day of the Convention and returned to his hotel in 
the evening. During the day he ate something or heard something that 
violently disagreed with him and that night he suffered a digestive upset, 
which was eased when he took a bicarbonate of soda. The next day he 
was desperately ill. New York physicians were hurriedly summoned and 
it was found that the Kansas City boss was suffering* from coronary 
thrombosis. For a time his recovery was doubtful. 

The doctors ordered complete rest and quiet, a period of perhaps six 
months without excitement of any kind. The New York doctor attend- 
ing him shook his head gravely, then added hopefully: "Although Mr. 
Pendergast is a stronger to me, I can see that he is a man of great energy 
and forcefulness, physically and mentally." 

That spirit which the physician observed produced a rally in the Boss, 
and after the first scare was past he began to take a hand in the Missouri 
battle that was raging in his absence. 

"I guess the people at home are saying I have stayed back here to dodge 
a fight," he remarked to a Star reporter who interviewed him in the New 
York hotel in August, shortly before the primary election. He still looked 
like a very sick man, he had lost thirty-five pounds during his illness, the 
flesh hung loosely on his bulldog jaws and his whole body sagged, but 
the voice and the eyes told that he wasn't licked. He defied the doctor's 
orders to rest and prepared final instructions for his followers in Kansas 
City which he sent in care of his son, Tom, Jr., who returned by plane 
on the eve of the primary election. 

Although Lloyd Stark had not yet come out inter the open with his 
opposition to Pendergast, the emergent insurance scandal created a large 
agitation in the primary campaign. Stark's opponent for the" guber- 
natorial nomination, William Hirth, veteran head of the Missouri Farm- 
ers* Association, made Pendergastism and insurance his principal issues. 


He denounced O'Malley's disposition of the millions of impounded 
insurance funds, describing it as "the buzzards* feast which the machine 
lawyers are obtaining from these funds." He also raised a great hue and 
cry about an item of five million which O'Malley wanted the state to 
collect from fraternal insurance companies, saying this represented back 
taxes and interest due. The fraternals replied that O'Malley's action was 
harassment designed to drive them out of business in Missouri in favor 
of private companies, and also served to make more fat fees through 
more litigation. 

The attack on Pendergast opened from another quarter when Uncle 
Joe Shannon took advantage of Uncle Tom's absence and weakness to 
support a St. Louis Democrat for a place on the state Supreme Court 
against the candidate favored by Pendergast. Fight for control of the 
Court mounted in intensity as the litigation over insurance and other 
matters approached a showdown, and the Shannon defection from the 
Boss in this instance was a curtain raiser to the great struggle over the 
court in which Governor Stark played a leading role two years later. 

Uncle Joe, like Uncle Tom, was a sick man at this time, but the primary 
contest over the Supreme Court judgeship had a galvanizing effect on 
him, and he ended the campaign feeling better than he had for years. 
That is, he felt fine until the votes were counted. The first to cry fraud 
was not the Star or District Attorney Milligan but Congressman Shan- 
non, whose candidate for Supreme Court judge was downed by a better 
than two to one count. It seemed that the heated campaign oratory had 
brought out the election ghosts in a parade of unprecedented propor- 

Uncle Joe was not complaining on the basis of hearsay evidence. On 
primary day he circulated among the voting booths of the Twelfth Ward 
and observed the ghosts and their assistants operating in various startling 
ways. Among other things, he saw two of his women workers slugged 
by roughnecks for protesting against illegal counting and stuffing. He 
collected data on numerous other instances in which Rabbit election 
judges were intimidated or ejected from the premises for protesting the 
tallying of nonexistent voters. His eyewitness accounts were supported 
by Mitchel Henderson, judge of the Probate Court, and Sheriff Tom 
Bash, two other Rabbit leaders. 


This election was "so corrupt it was a disgrace to American civiliza- 
tion," said Mr. Shannon. "The Democratic Party cannot exist with this 
sort of outrage," said Judge .Henderson. "I wonder how much of this 
Kansas City can stand," said Sheriff Bash. The Star echoed the charges 
in a page one editorial entitled "Shame." 

For one day it appeared that an important rift in the Kansas City 
Democratic machine had been made. Jimmy Pendergast and other 
Goats expressed their contempt for the crybaby tactics of the losing 
Rabbits. Governor Park pooh-poohed the fraud reports. Then there was 
some scurrying and whispering behind the scenes, Congressman Shan- 
non came out with a statement praising Uncle Tom's governor and the 
election board chairman, and a ghostlike silence fell over the Jackson 
County front. 

Lloyd Stark, the new nominee for governor with the Pendergast label, 
was certain of election in the fall. He had been very restrained up to this 
point, saying nothing to alarm the machine boys outside of promising to 
give the fraternals a "fair deal," but he hadn't missed a thing. 

A week after the primary election, Tom Pendergast in New York 
suffered a relapse and his children were called hurriedly from Kansas 
City to be at the bedside. He rallied again and it was found the latest 
disturbance was centered in the stomach rather than the heart. The 
shock of the first heart attack, combined with the excitement of the cam- 
paign and the tension under which the Boss was laboring, caused a recur- 
rence of Pendergast's old intestinal disorder. Late in August he was 
rushed to Roosevelt Hospital in New York for an emergency operation 
to remove an intestinal obstruction, and the family had another bad day. 
While Pendergast was fighting for his life, his younger daughter, six- 
teen-year-old Aileen Margaret, was under observation in the hospital for 

The Goat leader rallied again and by mid-September his doctors an- 
nounced it would be safe to move him to Kansas City, where he was to 
be taken to a hospital for another operation. He returned to his home 
town in a special car. Great secrecy covered the movement but his train 
was observed when it stopped at night at the state capital, Jefferson 
City, where oae passenger boarded the Pendergast speciaL He was recog- 


nized as Emmet O'Malley, the Boss's faithful friend and partner in the 
insurance bribe. 

O'Malley was ordered by Pendergast to collect more on the pay-oft 
as he needed money for hospital and doctor bills. The insurance super- 
intendent passed the word on to Agent McCormack, who obtained ten 
thousand dollars from Street and delivered it to Pendergast in his hos- 
pital bed one morning late in October. It was the last payment on the 
bribe account and the total was $310,000 below the agreed price. It was a 
bad deal all around and worse was to follow soon, but by this time Uncle 
Tom had demonstrated that he could take it and that there was enormous 
vigor still left in his wrecked body. 


WHEN Tom Pendergast came home in the fall of 1936 the fireworks for 
the final election in November were already popping. Opening the last 
round, the Star set off one of the heaviest barrages it had ever directed 
against the machine, and the ghosts were the newspaper's particular 
target. A ghost was a name fraudulently registered and voted. 

Since the August primary, the editors had been preparing the attack. 
The Star instigated its own investigation of registration frauds, assigning 
two of its ablest reporters Charles W. Graham and Paul V. Miner to 
the work. They developed an efficient spy and tipster system and took full 
advantage of political rivalries and treacheries to get the material they 
wanted. It was a dangerous assignment, for the newspapermen risked 
manhandling from hoodlums and rough interference from police. How- 
ever, throughout most of the investigation, they had the benefit of heayy 
protection that was said to have been ordered by the Boss himself after 
a couple of Democratic partisans had made threatening gestures at the 
reporters. A serious incident obviously would have added fuel to the 
Star's campaign. 

The Star's disclosures were published in a series o stories that appeared 
in the last two weeks before the election. The newspaper published the 
photograph of one ghost who was a stranger to the wife of the man 
whose name he had assumed for registration purposes. A circuit judge 

5. /. Ray in The Kansas City Star 

Out-Ghosting the Ghosts 

The ghost vote scandals of 1936 were recalled by tactics used to prevent a Recall 
election in 1939. 


was embarrassed when reporters produced evidence that two individuals 
whose petitions for registration he had upheld were ghosts. The reporters 
found from two to eight ghosts in the homes of many city and county 
employees. Some of these jobholders were not aware that the goblins 
had moved in on them. An interesting point in the investigation was the 
finding that quite a few of the government employees risked the wrath 
of the fraudulent registration operators by refusing to accommodate the 
ghosts in their homes. The reporters encountered the highest proportion 
of horiesty and fearlessness in the poorer homes, whose position should 
have made them the easiest victims of corruption and intimidation. The 
higher the investigation went, the more indifference and resistance it met. 
. The expos agitated the Goat leadership to the extent that it had the 
Election Board order a canvass of the registration. The Star declared 
that this was a gesture designed to head off the demand for a real canvass 
of the vote lists. A few thousand names were dropped from the registra- 
tion books by the machine-controlled Election Board and the ghosts 
found other ways to get on the list. The newspaper's crusade was not an 
unqualified success. It succeeded in eliminating only a fraction of the 
illegal registration. But it was extremely useful in focusing attention on 
the corruption of the ballot, building up the case for the greater action 
that was to follow soon from the Federal government quarter. 
Two days before the general election of 1936 the Star summed up the 
results of its investigation with the declaration, "An honest election here 
'Tuesday is absolutely impossible." That statement was based on infor- 
mation showing that in "numerous precincts and probably one entire 
ward, ghosts outnumber the legitimate voters.'* 

The Democratic victory was so complete that no one had the wind to 
raise the usual cry of robbery and fraud the morning after. For the next 
five weeks the public was allowed to forget the whole thing. So pro- 
found a silence was unnatural and, as it turned out, significant. However, 
the people needed this time in which to muster all of their strength for 
the shock o the romance of the ages, the Edward-Wally affair, which "at 
long last 1 * reached its denouement December 10, 1936, with the abdica- 
tion of Edward VIII. The Kansas City gamblers exhibited their senti- 
ment and usual acumen by betting that the American Woman would 
win over Prime Minister Baldwin and the British Cabinet. For one beau- 


tiful half-hour near the close of 1936, the Playboy King and the Baltimore 
Divorcee restored Twelfth Street's faith in humanity. 

District Attorney Milligan waited four days for the abdication excite- 
ment to subside before he opened his well-prepared case against the 
election ghosts. Then Judge Albert L. Reeves in Federal court instructed 
a new grand jury to go into the vote frauds in all sixteen wards. 

"When a man casts a dishonest ballot, he cocks and fires a gun at the 
heart of America," the Judge told jurors and spectators, in a courtroom 
charged with tension. 

"Gentlemen, reach forall, even if you find them in high authority. 
Move on them!" 

The special nature of this investigation was suggested by the range o 
the instructions, the Court's choice of rhetoric and the presence in town 
of numerous mysterious individuals who turned out to be F.B.I. agents, 
sent by Washington to make this the greatest hunt for election crooks in 
American history. 

Thirty indictments were returned in the first report of that jury, but 
that was only a modest beginning. The last election fraud case was not 
disposed of in the courts until two years later and the succession of jury 
reports marked stages in the machine's plunge to ruin. 


THERE WERE between fifty and sixty thousand illegal votes from Kansas 
City in the election of November, 1936, a conservative estimate based 
on the disclosures in the election fraud investigations and the sharp 
decline in registration that followed the Federal prosecutions and elec- 
tion law reform. Registration dropped from nearly 270,000 in the land- 
slide year of 1936 to 216,033 for the city campaign in the spring of 1938, 
the first election held after a new permanent registration law had been 
enacted and put in force under direction of the Election Board ap- 
pointed by Governor Stark in 1937. 

Kansas Citians haH been accustomed to hearing of election thieves for 
fifty years without getting a good look at them until the long parade of 
vote fraud defendants was staged in the Federal courts in 1937 and 1938. 


They were then startled and disturbed by the appearance of this piratical 
crew, not because they were more grotesque than they had been pic- 
tured in the lurid imaginations of newspaper cartoonists, but because they 
looked so much like ordinary citizens, which for the most part they were. 
The underworld types among them were greatly outnumbered by 
citizens who never before had been in trouble with the law. 

Besides the surprising character of the election crooks, there was one 
other element in the ghost vote that puzzled many people, and that was 
the fact that this greatest of election frauds occurred in a contest that was 
not even a close race in the beginning. The machine hadn't needed all or 
any of those fraudulent votes to win. Why had the organization ordered 
them produced, or permitted them to be tallied ? This phenomenon was 
noted by Arthur Krock, Washington correspondent of the New Yorf^ 
Times, who made a study of the Kansas City situation several months 
after the trials started. 

"The frauds revealed and expected to be revealed had nothing to do 
with the result of any contest for offices in Kansas City last November,'* 
he wrote. "There the Democratic majorities are naturally large, and the 
popularity of the New Deal plus the efficiency of the machine have made 
them larger. Why, then, was there stealing by 'the boys?' Any observer 
of city politics knows the real answer. Each party worker of the pro- 
fessional type is an office seeker. From him results are demanded in ex- 
change for jobs. The better showing he makes, the higher his standing 
over rival precinct, ward or district workers. This competition has led 
'the boys' to be what the boss calls 'overzealous.' " 

It was very easy to figure these things out if you were an old hand in 
the Washington political game, but the operation appeared to be a little 
more complicated if you lived in Kansas City. The Federal investigators, 
the prosecutor and the judges trying the cases were impressed by the 
evidence that the boys or rather the men and women who appeared 
before them were directed by orders from above. On one occasion. Judge 
Reeves interrupted his sentencing of a group of defendants to invite the 
higher-ups to surrender themselves. He offered this suggestion with the 
comment that the maximum penalty for the crime committed was only 
ten years in prison and a five-thousand-dollar-fine and by accepting their 
responsibility the managers of the ghosts would "rid literally hundreds 


of poor people of being humiliated and punished for doing their bid- 

The Judge wasn't trying to be funny. 

"There should be some gallantry and chivalry," he added, "but so long 
as the higher-ups remain in the background, the only thing for the judge 
to do is impose sentence on those who have followed their orders." 

The frauds were so extensive, so varied in nature and so marvelously 
thought out that it is impossible to believe they were not part of a con- 
certed and well-rehearsed plan. Besides giving little indication that the 
boys were out of control, the ghosts served more of a political purpose 
in 1936 than was commonly supposed. They weren't needed to win an 
election, but they were useful in increasing the Boss's reputation as the 
premier vote producer in Missouri, helping him to overwhelm the op- 
position within his own party, to override and intimidate factional oppo- 
sition outstate and to keep his prestige soaring. 

Anyone who believed that the organization command was not re- 
sponsible for the wild ride of the ghosts must have been touched by the 
way the higher-ups went to the defense of the wretched citizens caught 
in the Federal roundup. The machine gave one of its most impressive 
demonstrations of "caring for its own people" in this emergency, pro- 
viding money for bail, legal staff and other purposes, in fact doing every- 
thing that was possible except following Judge Reeves's suggestion to 
surrender the men behind the scenes. * 

The grand rally did the defendants no good in court for they were up 
against an efficient prosecutor, two uncommonly energetic judges and 
an outfit of G-men conducting a kind of investigation that was entirely 
new to the politicians in these parts, and all representing the full power 
of the Federal government, applied with unrelenting pressure from 
Washington. The jurors as well as the investigators were protected from 
local influence, for the juries were selected from panels made up pre- 
dominantly of men from counties around Kansas City in the Western 
Federal district of Missouri. Result: an almost complete shutout for the 
defense. District Attorney Milligan didn't have a chance to catch his 
breath and tally the score until almost two years after the first trial began. 
Then, at the conclusion of the thirty-ninthxonspiracy case tie reported 
the prosecution had involved a total of 278 defendants, 259 of whom 


were convicted by pleas or trials by jury, and the remainder dis- 
charged. There were thirteen jury trials at which sixty-three were con- 
victed, none acquitted. Unlucky 13 appeared again in the number o 
cases appealed to the higher courts but the side representing the gamblers 
had slightly better fortune that time, drawing one reversal. Total fines 
assessed exceeded sixty thousand dollars, and a large number of the prin- 
cipal offenders, including women, went to jail or to prison for terms 
ranging up to four years. There were thirty-two penitentiary and forty 
jail sentences. 

Federal jurisdiction in the Kansas City vote cases was established under 
the Constitutional protection of the voter's rights in balloting for presi- 
dential electors and congressional candidates in the general election of 
1936. Investigation at first centered on registration applications, which 
turned up such interesting evidence as vacant lots for addresses of 
hundreds, of supposed citizens, and small houses each occupied by a 
hundred and more alleged voters. In many precincts the registration 
far exceeded the total population and, as one of the Federal judges re- 
marked, the total registration of almost 270,000 for the city indicated 
a population trf 600,000, or about 200*000 more than the 1930 census 
allowed. Beginning there, the investigation broadened out to cover all 
Varieties of false registration, padding, miscounting, stuffing, intimida- 
tion and interference. 

Main weapon for the prosecution was found in an old civil rights' 
statute, sometimes called the Ku Klux statute, enacted after the Civil 
War to protect citizens whose voting rights were violated by the Klan. 
District Attorney Milligan and his assistants discovered this neglected 
law shortly before the vote fraud investigations started. Under this old 
statute, which provided heavy penalties for conspiracy to deprive voters 
of their rights^of franchise, election judges and clerks who took part in 
the frauds were hauled before the courts in batches. 

The defense conducted both a legal and a political attack in behalf of 
the erring election judges and clerks but was handicapped somewhat by 
the fact that the district attorney was a Democrat and the national ad- 
ministration supporting the prosecutions was Democratic. However, 
the two Federal judges who called the various grand juries and presided 
at the trials were distinguished Republicans, whose vigor in pushing the 


investigations and passing out sentences reminded numerous Goats and 
Rabbits of the judges' devotion to the party of Harding and Hoover and 
moved them to cry persecution. 

Chief target of this protest was Judge Reeves, who set off the whole 
thing, carried the main burden and showed no signs of weariness two 
years later, when he found another way to attack the Democratic ma- 
chine. The Judge asserted that he received numerous threats by tele- 
phone, that some unidentified messenger informed him the "trigger 
men" were eager to go after him and on one occasion in this period an 
effort was made to trap him with a lady in a Springfield, Missouri, hotel 
room secretly wired for sound effects. The lure, he said, was a "sweet- 
voiced woman" who called him on the telephone one night and asked to 
see him. The Judge was, of course, too cagey to fall for a routine plot like 
this. And personal abuse or intimidation efforts merely served to make 
him more energetic in the cause of righteousness.- 

Reeves, the flinty Christian, had distinguished himself in public life 
with his work for the Lord and the Republican faith. His Honor's dander 
had been stirred to a high point over election frauds long before the ghost 
scandal of 1936. Nearly twenty years earlier, when he was pursuing po- 
litical ambitions of his own, he was nominated as the Republican can- 
didate for Congress in Jackson County. After he was defeated, he 
declared he had been counted out illegally and went to Washington to 
press his charges before Congress. A congressional committee "viewed 
with deepest concern" the evidence he presented and then found a way 
to drop the contest, discovering that Reeves had neglected to raise the 
issue within the required thirty days after the election of November, 1918. 

Judge Reeves's efficient partner in the election fraud cases was Judge 
Merrill E. Otis, who looked less solemn than his Calvary Baptist colleague 
on the bench but was not any easier on election frauds. Judge Otis also 
was a Baptist and a man of great piety, but he hid his severity under an 
amiable exterior. 

The judges pointed out that they tempered justice with mercy, hand- 
ing out penalties that were, with few exceptions, a third of the limit fixed 
by the law. Of course, many Democrats considered them excessive. 
Agitation over the inevitable persecution complaint reached a high- 
point when Senator Harry S. Truman made a direct attack on District 


Attorney Milllgan and Judges Otis and Reeves in the United States 

"The Federal court at Kansas City is presided over by two as violently 
partisan judges as ever sat on a Federal bench since the Federalist judges 
of Jefferson's administration," Truman asserted* 

"Convictions o Democrats are what they want," he added. The junior 
Missouri senator buttressed his case with the charge that grand juries 
were hand picked and the attitude of jurymen was ascertained by the 
court in advance. 

"A Jackson County Democrat has as much chance of a fair trial in the 
Federal District Court as a Jew would have in a Hitler court or a Trotsky 
follower before Stalin/' Truman shouted. 

He drew a thunderous retort from Judge Reeves, along with a loud 
chorus of denunciation from the press. Reeves declared the Truman 
blast "was a speech of a man nominated by ghost votes, elected with 
ghost votes, and whose speeches probably are written by ghost writers.*' 

The Truman outburst coincided with a fight on the renomination of 
District Attorney Milligan for another term. Senator Truman explained 
that his objection to Milligan antedated the election fraud prosecutions, 
as indeed it did. Milligan was named district attorney in the first place 
with Senator Clark's backing and Roosevelt's approval over the* objec- 
tions o Tom Pendergast. Then, in 1934, came the Senate race between 
Truman and District Attorney Milligan's brother, ending with the brief 
flurry which the District Attorney created over alleged election frauds in 
the 1934 primary. 

Asserting that "Mr. Milligan has been made a hero by t^ie Kansas City 
Star and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch" Truman challenged Milligan's 
capacity for the office he held and his conduct in Federal bankruptcy pro- 
ceedings. The Department of Justice upheld the District Attorney on 
both counts. 

Truman returned from Washington to Kansas City to confer with 
Pendergast and started back to the capital to continue the effort to block 
Senate confirmation of Milligan's renomination. He was interrupted on 
the way in Chicago with a call from the White House conveying Presi- 
dent Roosevelt's request that he abandon the fight on Milligan. 

"Since thfc President wants this, I shall not oppose the confirmation. 


although politically and personally I am opposed to Mr. Milligan because 
I do not think and never have thought he was fit for the place/* Senator 
Truman asserted. 

When the confirmation came to a vote, he did not exercise his Senate 
prerogatives to demand that his colleagues reject Milligan as "obnoxious" 
to him, but he took the floor to express his criticism of the Federal judges 
and district attorney and cast the one vote that was entered against Milli- 

Not long after the excitement over the Truman stand died down, the 
Federal court announced it would modify the penalties in cases where 
pleas of guilty were entered. In all, thirty-six guilty pleas were entered. It 
was explained this offer was made to expedite handling of the con- 
gested court docket and also to reduce the number of appeals. Some 
individuals already convicted by juries returned to the courtroom with 
guilty pleas and had their sentences reduced from two, three and four 
years in prison to six, eight and nine months in jail. 

There were many incidents in the trials which made it clear that in 
these cases the courts were not dealing with the ordinary criminal class. 
Most of these people were individuals from small homes who supported 
themselves in little jobs and were regarded as good citizens before their 
involvment in the vote-fraud prosecutions. Many of them were women. 
There were, however, some tough customers in the lot along with the 
pathetic offenders and the crime for which they were collectively re- 
sponsible represented a major violation o the American democratic 

Not all the defendants were small-time figures in the political organi- 
zation. Curiously, the principal in the case who attracted widest atten^ 
tion was a woman, and 'the whole sad complication produced by the 
ruthless struggle for political power was revealed in her experience. She 
was Mrs. Frances Ryan, the Pendergast Twelfth Ward leader, daughter 
of a veteran Pfendergast lieutenant. At the time of her indictment and 
trial, she was superintendent of the Jackson County Parental Home. 
The vote frauds in her ward were of a sensational extent and character, 
and she was given two terms of three years each in prison. Judge Otis 
remarked in court that she had many good qualities, intelligence, 
strength o character and a reputation for charitable activities, but he 


added that the frauds in which she was involved were so serious that he 
could not grant her application for probation. 

So the great ghost hunt proceeded to its conclusion, showing in many 
disquieting ways that political corruption was not the simple thing it 
sometimes seemed. Costs of the vote fraud cases to the boss machine were 
beyond calculation. Lawyers' fees, bail and appeal bonds, court costs and 
fines and the expense of caring for the families of the imprisoned ones 
ran the bill into the hundreds of thousands. Other costs were harder to 
estimate. The expense of the defense forced the organization to increase 
the heavy lug on the joints, upping the gambling syndicate's take to 
forty-five per cent and even more in some cases. In order to meet the 
increased overhead, the joints engaged in phenomenal activity, which 
provoked an unfavorable public reaction, calling in turn for more in- 
vestigations of crime conditions and more prosecutions. A cycle was set 
in motion that spiraled rapidly toward disaster and its operation was 
most spectacularly illustrated in the case of the Boss himself. 

Pendergast left his sick bed with a tube in his side that kept him alive, 
and plunged into the thick of the battle. The excitement of the Federal 
court challenge and other opposition had a rallying effect on him and 
within seven months after his collapse he completely ignored his doc- 
tors' advice to give up business, political and gambling activities. The 
rise of his gambling fever was manifested in both his betting and his 
political affairs. Like his organization, he gave a deceptive impression 
of strength and vigor. Only a few persons besides Uncle Torn himself 
had any intimations of how fast time was running out. 


BY THE SUMMER of 1937, Tom Pendergast had recovered sufficiently to 
feel able to deal directly with the new Missouri governor, Lloyd C. Stark. 
It was high time that an understanding be reached with the Louisiana 
apple man, who since his inauguration had shown no consideration for 
the powerful Kansas City organization that supported him and had- 
been rather too eager in pushing through the General Assembly the 
new registration law that was designed to prevent a repetition of the 
ghost-vote carnival of 1936. Governor St25rk was about to appoint a*iew 


election board of four members to administer this law and he exhibited 
no inclination to consult Pendergast concerning these appointees. 

The Boss summoned, or rather invited, the Governor to visit him in 
Colorado Springs, Colorado, in July 1937. The call reached Stark while 
he was returning from a vacation tour in Alaska, and he stopped on his 
way home to pay his respects to the Kansas City boss. This social and 
political occasion was well attended by representatives of the Missouri 
press and the results of the meeting, which became historic, were almost 
immediately known to the public. Neither Stark nor Pendergast was 
reticent in telling reporters what happened. 

By all accounts, Governor Stark was as remote and cold as one of the 
snowclad peaks in this delightful vacation land, and Pendergast ex- 
hibited his most engaging manners. The Governor later spread the word 
around that the Boss was almost abject with his requests in 'this inter- 
view, but a picture of Big Tom conducting himself in this fashion when 
asking anybody for anything was something you had to see personally to 

Pendergast's requests were not too modest and he didn't waste any 
time in coming to the point. He asked Stark to re-appoint his friend 
O'Malley as state superintendent of insurance for a four-year term and 
he asked for the selection of an Election Board that was "friendly" to 
him. Governor Stark bluntly turned down the Election Board request 
and compromised on the O'Malley matter by agreeing to permit O'Mal- 
ley to remain in office for a year as a holdover. He let Pendergast under- 
stand that he wasn't satisfied with O'Malley's conduct of the Insurance 
Department and his continuance in office depended on his good be- 

Showing his displeasure over this response, the Boss insisted that he 
deserved at least one important appointment in view of his organization's 
work for Stark in the primary and general election, and Stark finally 
agreed that he could select the state liquor control supervisor, a new 
office created by the revised liquor laws, but stipulated that the man 
chosen must meet Stark's approval. 

Keeping the promise he made in Colorado, Stark named Thomas F. 
Fitzgerald, a Kansas City man, to the liquor control office on the Goat 
boss's recommendation. This Kansas City Irishman had a line of blarney 


that Impressed the Governor along with a reform technique that 
baffled him. Mr. Fitzgerald was efficient and energetic but had an iln- 
conventional sense of direction. The Governor suggested that he start 
cracking down on Kansas City. Fired with the Stark spirit, Fitzgerald 
headed toward Kansas City but landed in St. Joseph. 

Governor Stark congratulated his new assistant on his vigorous be- 
ginning and suggested again that he investigate enforcement in Kansas 
City, where the sounds of merriment in the dives were again so loud 
that they could easily be heard 175 miles away in Jefferson City. Mr. 
Fitzgerald informed the Governor that the liquor regulations were be- 
ing observed in model fashion in Kansas City and everything was under 
control. Before Stark could figure his way around that one, Mr. Fitz- 
gerald was back in the field carrying on his crusade, heading for St. 
Louis. His reform ran on about seven months before Stark fired him. 

Long before the Fitzgerald affair ended, the battle line between Pen- 
dergast and Stark was drawn. Shortly after the Colorado meeting at 
which he brushed aside the Boss's request for a friendly Election Board, 
the Governor appointed a board consisting of two Republicans, one anti- 
Pendergast Democrat Edgar Shook, who had been prominently iden- 
tified with the Citizens revolt and one other Democrat who was ac- 
ceptable to the Kansas City factions. 

Pendergast angrily remarked that the Governor had ignored the pro- 
vision for a bipartisan board. "He has appointed three Republicans and 
one Democrat," the Goat leader growled. 

This action was quickly followed by a more explosive disturbance 
when Governor Stark ordered Insurance Superintendent O'Malley to 
withdraw from litigation over a second impounded fund involved in the 
rate compromise negotiated by O'Malley. This proceeding was an out- 
growth of the same controversy that produced the ten-million-dollar fund 
which was impounded by the Federal Court. At the same time that one 
gr'oup of fire insurance companies sought aid in Federal Court, another 
group filed action in a state court to prevent interference with their 
rate increase. The excess insurance premiums impounded during the 
second dispute amounted to nearly two million dollars. It had reached 
the Missouri Supreme Court when Governor Stark ordered O'Malley to 
withdraw from the fight to get his compromise accepted. 


O'Malley defied the Governor and, in October, 1937, Stark fired him 
from the post of state insurance commissioner. 

The ousted official called the Governor a polecat and returned to 
Kansas City, where he was given a city job with a seven thousand five 
hundred dollar salary. The Kansas City Democrats stormed and talked 
darkly of reprisals against Stark. City Manager McElroy called him a 
polecat, just to make sure he hadn't misunderstood O'Malley. The 
Judge created other opportunities to show his contempt for the Gov- 
ernor. His stellar performance was given on an occasion when he os- 
tentatiously refused to eat a Stark's Delicious apple that was offered him. 
"I'll take it home and give it to a dog," he explained. 

As the year approached its close, the Missouri Supreme Court, in a 
four-to-three decision, rejected the insurance compromise in its en- 
tirety the second time that this tribunal had ruled against this settle- 
ment. Policyholders recovered all of the impounded premiums under 
this decision a total of $1,786,481 but this didn't affect the much 
larger sum involved in the other settlement approved in Federal Court. 
Distribution of the ten-million-dollar melon -went ahead on the eighty- 
twenty basis that Pendergast and O'Malley had arranged for the com- 

, Entering the new year, a review of 1937 showed that the Annapolis- 
trained 'Strategist in the governor's office had scored a victory on vir- 
tually all counts. The blows he delivered were heavy ones and he had 
made a large contribution to the machine opposition for the city elec- 
tion campaign in the early months of 1938. The boss regime was ac- 
tually in a state of acute^ crisis, but curiously there was a widespread im- 
pression that the machine was at the height of its power and Uncle Tom 
was in fine fettle. In some important respects, this was not an illusion, 
for in its final run before the smashup the machine turned on all the lights 
aad shot the works. 


IT TOOK a surprising amount of time for the Pendergast decline to mani- 
fest itself at the polls. The new trend was hardly visible in the city cam- 
paign in the early part of 1938, There were many reasons for this phe- 


nomenon, some of which have never been satisfactorily analyzed by 
earnest political students. Fortunately for the reader's pleasure, the or- 
dinary experts in this field had at this time the assistance of an ex-sports 
columnist, who still is remembered by some in Kansas City as the out- 
standing interpreter *of the political follies of February-March, 1938. 

This study began with the visit to town of Westbrook Pegler, the 
syndicated writing fellow, who arrived from New York late in Febru- 
ary, 1938, when the campaign was swinging into high. That was early 
in the period when Mr. Pegler developed a sense of mission, a change 
that came over him after being impressed that the eccentrics in the po- 
litical arena were more wonderful than pugilists and ball players, and 
that statesmen of the press earned more dough than sports writers. Kan- 
sas City had reached the zenith of its national notoriety as the Paris 
of the Plains, and Mr. Pegler came to tell the nation of the fine points o 
the Pendergast razrnataz. He stayed four days, which qualified him as 
an authority, for that was by far the heaviest study that any newspaper 
expert devoted to the machine riddle in this period. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing in Pegler's four-piece essay on Sin- 
ful Kansas City is the impression it conveys of the curious atmosphere 
that prevailed over this community in the days when the Coalition 
citizens were attempting to down Uncle Tom. Mr. Pegler was but dimly 
aware that a campaign was in progress and he picked up no suspicion 
whatever that the Pendergast victory in the forthcoming election was to 
be the last for Uncle Tom. The people he saw and moved among were 
not steeped in gloom over the state of the world or the condition of 
their souls or the shape of their municipal enterprise. They were, if any- 
thing, too joyous. Anyone reading the Pegler reports must conclude that 
the Kansas Citians were simply too hardy to feel the depression which 
corruption, crime and wickedness inevitably produce. The writer ap- 
parently didn't meet anyone who wasn't on the make or on the loose. 
If he did, he neglected to mention it. 

There was, Mr. Pegler found, both an economic and a historical ex- 
planation for the high development of the Kansas City taste for gambling 
and hell-raising at night. The historical reason, the columnist wrote, 
was that the city had always been an open town and the economic fac- 
tor was the livestock industry* Some cattle market *mn told him that 


on the few occasions when Kansas City had the lid on, the cattlemen 
shipped the stock to Chicago and went along for the fun in the Windy 
City casinos and brothels. This explanation took no account of the way 
that livestock men figured the margin on freight rates and shrinkage in 
marketing their product, and it slighted the hardware dealers, dyers 
and cleaners, undertakers and representatives of several other lines of 
business who for years had overshadowed the cattlemen in the produc- 
tion of rip-snorters. 

Although the many light diversions offered in the evening explained 
why many citizens tolerated and even took pride in their notorious 
machine government, Mr. Pegler recognized the fact that there was a 
deeper explanation for Pendergast's success. He got it by consulting City 
Manager McElroy and several other people in the know. What it 
amounted to was the standard justification for machine rule. It was what 
Mr. Pegler called "good, rotten government." It protected business 
against strike violence, kept tax rates at a moderate level, reduced rob- 
bery and motor theft rates and diverted the energies of the criminal ele- 
ment into the vice rackets. And all of these achievements were made pos- 
sible by the organization's tie with the underworld and the revenue 
from gambling and vice. 

Mr. Pegler himself was so favorably impressed with this justification 
that he took vigorous exception to the comments of a fellow publicist 
who was agitating for Kansas City reform. The critic was William 
Allen White of Emporia, whom Pegler referred to derisively as "Branch 
Water Bill of the hair shirt state of Kansas." He called attention to the 
unreasonableness of the White position when the Kansas editor ad- 
mitted that "businessmen and labor, as well as crooks and officeholders 
in all a great multitude were beneficiaries of the Kansas City system. 
Nevertheless he yearned out loud for a political judgment on the old 
saloonkeeper from whom these blessings flow. Always a-wantin* is 
Branch Water Bill. Give him good government by a rotten machine and 
he wants to risk rotten government by a good one." * 

With the delightful vulgarity that characterizes his style, Pegler dis- 
missed the questions of moral tone, civil humiliation and the city's self- 

* From a copyrighted artidc by Westbrook Pegler, 1938; reprinted by permission of the 
New York World-Telegram. 


respect as "mere mayonnaise,'* things for the luxury trade. In view of 
the fact that the columnist later delivered the most righteous judg- 
ment ever passed on Pendergast after Uncle Tom was down and his 
machine in ruins one must suppose that Pegler was being whimsical 
in 1938, or conclude that the four days in Kansas City had a demoralizing 
effect on him. 

All of this blather about the city's tolerance and indifference took no 
account of the battle that had been waged with increasing vigor since 
the Mayerberg uprising in 1932. It left out of the picture the Page and 
Southern attacks, the agitation in the churches, the struggles in the 
Federal courts, the Star's crusading, the Stark challenge and the opposi- 
tion from Washington. The comparatively small amount of crime which 
Pegler noticed in his report was actually the most extensive operation in 
history with the police working hand in hand with the crooks, which 
accounted for the pretty statistical showing. The impression of machine 
efficiency in city services and taxes was equally deceptive. 

Mr. Pegler was a busy man, and had to hurry on to the next assignment, 
so he missed a chance to see just how disturbed the citizens were over 
"good, rotten government" in the campaigning that followed his brief 
visit. Although the contest was orderly by comparison with some past 
performances, the fight was not lacking in intensity. The antimachine 
forces selected the rambunctious Colonel Whitten, survivor of the 1934 
debacle, as their hope for mayor and named a bipartisan ticket of five 
Democrats and four Republicans. Name of the reform movement was 
changed from Citizens-Fusion to Coalition but the interests and person- 
alities in the leadership were virtually the same. Heroes of the 1932 and 
1934 wars with the boss organization, Rabbi Mayerberg and the prin- 
cipal figures of KY.M., again went into action, but their efforts under 
the Coalition lacked some of the spirit that had characterized the 
Mayerberg Charter League and the New Youth Movement in their 
early days. There was, however, a notable increase in opposition coming 
from two sources the businessmen and the Star. 

Strategy of the Star's assault was directed along two main lines. The 
first was a drive to make certain that the new election machinery de-r 
signed to produce a reasonably honest vote count would function effi- 


ciently. The stage for achievement of this goal was set by the state and 
Federal governments, with Governor Stark appointing the new election 
board occupied by Republicans and anti-Pendergast Democrats to super- 
vise the permanent registration law that was pushed through the Legis- 
lature in 1937, while the Federal courts in Kansas City kept the vote 
fraud issue before the public with the prosecutions dating from the 1936 

The Election Board appointed by Stark had completely reorganized 
the registration and voting system in a four-month period before the 
election. Personnel in the Election Board offices was changed and a new 
system of records set up. Efforts to circumvent the new law were check- 
mated at almost every turn. 

The second main objective in the Star's campaign was the rallying o 
business to open defiance of the organization. An interesting thing about 
this incitation to revolt was that it was not based on an appeal primarily to 
the pocket books of the merchants, grainmen, stockmen, manufacturers 
and bankers. Emphasis on costs and taxes was much less pronounced 
than it was in 1934. Above the usual cry for frugality and efficiency in 
municipal administration, there arose a demand for freedom. It ap- 
peared that some of the commercial interests were seeing democratic 
rights and responsibilities in a new light as applied to their businesses 
and homes after twelve years of machine rule. 

This agitation reached its height when one hundred prominent citizens 
signed and issued a declaration of principles. Several representatives of 
labor were included in this group, but the statement was significant 
chiefly for the names of the business leaders it contained, and for the 
declaration that the supreme issue of the campaign was not taxes, patron- 
age, boodle and the customary list of municipal problems, but the ques- 
tion "whether free, democratic government shall endure." 

In addition to the new interest in democracy, and the old complaint 
over the growing costs of machine control, there was another large factor 
in the 1938 difference between the business community and the organiza- 
tion. The control of labor wasn't working so well as it had in the past, a 
fact that manifested itself in two labor-management struggles that had 
Cocked the city in the last year. These issues brought City Manager 

3 o2 TOM'S TOWN 

McElroy into open conflict with two of the city's most important indi- 
viduals, Builder J. C. Nichols and Banker James M. Kemper, both Demo- 
crats, and caused T. J. Pendergast himself to intervene. 

In the first of these disputes, the building trades strike in the summer 
erf 1937, McElroy had drawn the fire of the employers when his police 
failed to stop flying squadrons of union men who went raiding on a 
wide scale, pulling unorganized workers off of jobs. A committee of 
builders and other businessmen demanded the police take more ener- 
getic action. When the City Manager defied them, they called a mass 
meeting at which some unkind things were said about Uncle Tom and 
his organization. That was followed by a meeting with the Boss, who 
talked to the employers like a Dutch uncle. After that all parties in the 
dispute exhibited more restraint, but it finally ended with the unions 
winning wage concessions. 

The unions involved in this controversy belonged to the American 
Federation of Labor, the largest labor organization in Kansas City and 
one whose membership was predominantly in the Democratic Party. 
However, the Boss's spectacular championing of their cause in this in- 
stance did not signify either an old or a recent conversion to the labor 
movement, but rather an intensification of political pressure on business, 
and retaliation for opposition coming from that direction. 

Mr. Pendergast exhibited much less enthusiasm for the new and less 
numerous CJ.O. in the second large labor struggle of the year, but even 
here the administration angered the business leaders with its slowness 
In cracking down. The issue came to a, head when Ford's labor regu- 
lator, Harry Bennett, delivered an ultimatum to the effect that the Ford 
plant in Kansas City would be permanently abandoned unless the police 
co-operated to his satisfaction in discouraging CJ.O pickets who were re- 
sisting an effort to break up their new union. The businessmen's com- 
mittee again called indignation meetings to make McElroy njore co- 
operative and the pressure became so intense that Pendergast finally 
suggested that McElroy should visit Detroit and interview Mr. Ford 
himself on his employment policies. The Judge made the trip by plane, 
and the press reported that the Detroit motor magnate and his union- 
busting director were charmed by the McElroy manners and political 


views. Mr. McElroy for his part was delighted with what he heard from 
them, and he returned from Detroit announcing blithely: 

Everything's lovely, and the goose hangs high, 
Soon you will see the Fords rolling by. 

The Fords didn't roll from the assembly line as soon as expected, for 
it took some time to soften up the pickets, during which there were 
hundreds of arrests, shotgun play, tear-gas attacks, stonings and various 
other disorders. This struggle was still going on when the citizens pre- 
pared to go to the polls in March, 1938. 

So the forces and issues involved in the new movement for democracy 
were not so clear as they might have been when the Star summed up the 
campaign in an editorial on "the issue of the machine over Kansas City." 
The editorial carried a note of despair, which was understandable. It ap- 
peared on the same page with a campaign roundup forecasting the Pen- 
dergast victory two days hence. 

On the last Tuesday in March, 1938, the citizens went to the polls in 
dignified fashion and rolled up a majority of more than 43,000 for the 
head of the Democratic ticket, or about 8,000 above the most optimistic 
predictions. The Democratic candidates took all except one of the coun- 
cil seats. It was the machine's most remarkable election triumph, de- 
serving that rating on several counts. It was the quietest, most orderly and 
most nearly honest election held since the conflict entered its major stage. 
Fighting in the shadow of the vote fraud trials, the party in power 
showed that it had lost none of its hold on honest voters. Although the 
Democratic vote totals did not establish another record, the Pendergast 
showing was the most impressive ever recorded because it was made in 
the face of the most formidable combination yet arrayed against the 
ghosts and Rabbits. 

Naturally the Boss was elated and he quickly issued a statement to the 
press proclaiming four more years' of organization rule and gently 
mocking the opposition. Said Mr. Pendergast: 

"If it is true, as the Kansas City Star and the Coalition speakers re- 
ported, that the Democratic President of the United States was against 
us, that the Attorney General of the United States was against us, that 
the Governor of the State of Missouri was against us, that the indc- 

3 o 4 TOM'S TOWN 

pendent Kansas City Star newspaper was against us I think under those 
circumstances we made a wonderful showing. 

"The only further thing I have to say is that the Democratic office- 
holders elected yesterday will go on doing their duty to Kansas City 
business interests and to Kansas City generally. 

"There never has been and there never will be any reprisals, as was 
stated by the Coalition speakers, and the Democratic organization which 
I represent will do its utmost for the best interests of Kansas City now, 
and for all times in the future." 

While the citizens were pondering the implications of this statement 
from a power outside the regularly constituted government openly as- 
serting his sovereignty, and while the opposition politicians digested the 
meaning of that final phrase "for all times in the future" the City 
Hall announced the first fruits of the election would be the retention of 
Judge McElroy in office and a cleanup of bawdy Fourteenth Street. 

Uncle Tom's exultation over the confounding of all of his enemies was 
heightened by a message of congratulation from Jim Farley in Washing- 
ton. Then he got indirect word of Governor Stark's reaction and his feel- 
iag of joy and peace lasted less than one day. 


APRIL FOOL'S DAY, 1938, was a time of great indignation at 1908 Main 
Street. Uncle Tom ^endergast saw no humor at all in the roundabout 
greeting he received from Lloyd Crow Stark, who expressed his con- 
gratulations over the party victory at the Kansas City polls in these 
words: "Of course, as a lifelong Democrat, I am always pleased when 
the Democrats win." This mealymouthed acknowledgment of his re- 
cent defeat was buried in the news that Governor Stark had started an 
energetic effort to revive the crusade that was interrupted by the Kansas 
City vindication of the machine, and was beginning with a cleanup 
through the liquor supervision department. This was accompanied by 
reports that the Governor and other important figures in the Democratic 
Party outside Kansas City had laid the basis for another assauh oja P$n- 
dergast in the August primary campaign coming up next, 


The Boss had taken all of this sort of punishment that he could stand 
and the Stark expression of partisan satisfaction over the stunning 
Pendergast triumph in the city election was the kind of political soph- 
istry that slashed the Goat soul to its depths. T. J. Pendcrgast's im- 
mediate response was a statement delivered to the press which was a 
declaration of war against Governor Stark and William Hirth, the farm 
leader who had been Stark's opponent for the gubernatorial nomination 
in 1936 but since then had joined forces with Stark in the fight on bossism 
in the party. 

There were no subtleties or evasions in the Pendergast retort. 

"Now, in reference to the Governor of this state," the statement read, 
"when he was a candidate for the nomination he had at least five hundred 
people in Missouri and Kansas City seeing me from day to day asking for 
my support. Amongst them were fifty outstanding Democrats of Kan- 
sas City, whom I could mention except that ^ime will not permit. 

"I finally met the Governor, who was then a candidate, with my 
nephew [James M. Pendergast] and W. Ed Jameson [president of the 
Board of Managers of the state eleemosynary institutions] in my office. 
After a few remarks of no consequence, I consented to support Mr; Stark 
for the governorship. I gave him every ounce of support in the primary 
and general election, and after the election in the legislative bodies of 

"I have never done a thing in my life except support Democratic 
officeholders to the best of my ability. I have not received that kind of 
consideration from Governor Stark. 

"In conclusion," he said, "let me say that Stark will have to live with 
his conscience the same as the rest of us. If his conscience is clear I 
know mine is. I now say, let the river, take its course." 

Governor Stark remained cool and collected. 

"I am perfectly willing to let all the Democrats and all the people of 
Missouri be the judge of my honesty and integrity, my actions and my 
democracy," he asserted. 

Pendergast caught the emphasis on "all the people'* and retorted: 

"I am perfectly willing to let the Democrats of Missouri who voted 
for him be the judge.** 

All observers understood thi$ to mean that the issue between them 

306 TOM'S, TOWN 

would be decided in the Democratic primary four months hence. The 
battle shaped up over the Missouri Supreme Court, with the Boss and 
the challenger slugging it out over the nomination of one judge. The 
contests for the judicial places traditionally had been conducted along 
lines that kept them aloof from the main partisan struggle, and the candi- 
dates in this race tried to keep up appearances by personally taking no 
part in the heated oratory but their campaign was the stage for one of 
the fiercest political struggles in Missouri history. 

Stark took the initiative with his support for Judge James M. Douglas 
of St. Louis, a young St. Louis man, whom Stark had appointed early 
in 1937 to fill a vacancy on the Supreme bench. Judge Douglas voted 
with the majority in the four-to-three court decision which threw out 
the fire insurance rate compromise arranged by O'Malley. The Judge's 
partisans declared that the boss organization sought to punish him for 
that decision at the same time it buried Stark for his action on the election 
commission and other matters, Pendergast had some difficulty finding a 
candidate to oppose Judge Douglas, but the lines finally were drawn 
when the organization announced its support for Judge James V. Billings, 
a Circuit judge from a quiet section of the state near the Arkansas line. 

As his comment on Pendergast's declaration of war indicated, Stark's 
one hope rested in "all the people of Missouri." The governor had im- 
portant allies in Kansas City in the Star, District Attorney Milligan, 
leaders of the Coalition and reform groups and a minority of the legal 
fraternity who had formed the Lawyers' Association to oppose machine 
domination of the Kansas City Bar Association, but it was clear that the 
battle would have to be won outstate and in St. Louis. The St. Louis 
assistance for Stark's candidate included such potent forces as the St. 
Louis Post-Dispatch, spearhead of liberalism in Missouri, and Charles 
M, Hay, veteran of the Democratic wars. It did not include Senator Ben- 
nett C. Clark, who got Pendergast's support for renomination and suc- 
cessfully played both ends against the middle, returning to the Senate 
with what he deemed to be a mandate to continue his sabotaging of the 
New Deal. With the Democratic support in nominally Republican St. 
Louis less than enough to balance the Jackson County majority for Tom's 
man, it was seen that the final decision rested in rural Missouri. 

William Hirth of Columbia, fiery head of the Missouri Farmers* As- 


sociation, was so confident that rural Missouri would rise against the Boss 
that he predicted a victory for Stark's side a month before the primary 
election. He coupled this forecast with an analysis of Pendergast's situa- 
tion which led him to conclude that T. J.- had "overplayed his hand.'* 
Speculating on the reasons that guided the Goat leader in deciding to 
risk a do-or-die stand, Hirth concluded that he had acted in a jnoment of 
blind rage rather than on the basis of a careful survey of his chances. 

Perhaps Mr. Hirth was right, but it did seem that the governor was 
the one who actually issued the challenge and made it difficult for the 
Boss to ignore it without overtly surrendering. Time was running out 
for both the machine and its great operator. Even if Pendergast had 
not elected to launch a major counteroffensive at this stage, the weaken- 
ing attack would have gone on and the organization as events proved 
would have found itself in a worse position if it had waited to make 
its stand at a later date. 

Viewed in this light, Pendergast took the course that was dictated both 
by his personal feeling and by a realistic appraisal of the situation. That 
he appreciated both the immensity and the inevitability of this undertak- 
ing was suggested by the tone of his command to "let the river take its 

Apparently no one appreciated more than Governor Stark how little 
choice the Boss had in this matter, and no one had a greater suspicion that 
Pendergast had but a short time left for political campaigning before 
facing judgment* himself in the courts. It was left to the Missouri gov- 
ernor to state in the clearest tones the nature and significance of the 
issue on the courts. Despite the Hirth confidence that Missouri hadn't 
changed fundamentally from the faith, independence and pride it ex- 
pressed in the days of old Tom Benton and Vest, Blair and Schurz, a 
giant was needed to carry the revival to the people, and Lloyd Crow Stark 
was the nearest approximation to that stature in the summer of 1938. His 
qualities as a campaigner were not rated particularly high when he en- 
tered the contest. He had not had to extend himself to get elected when 
Pendergast was behind him and his subsequent forceful performance as 
an administrator did not necessarily mean he could arouse the citizens to 
do their duty on election day. The governor was not a polished orator, 
He didn't inflame audiences and he couldn't unbend easily enough to suit 


the Missourians. But he had great energy and determination and won the 
respect due a fighter. He didn't have much color but his lantern jaw was 
impressive. And when he spoke in the summer of 1938 his words carried 
conviction and an urgency that held attention. They sent out waves that 
spread over the state east into the Mark Twain country along the Mis- 
sissippi, south into the green Ozark hills, west along the Missouri 
through the rich farmlands of Little Dixie to its terminus at Kansas 
City, northwest into the tall-corn counties. Stark stumped the state tire- 
lessly and everywhere he went the crowds turned out to hear him. They 
listened with an earnestness that bespoke more than the usual interest 
or excitement of campaign time. The Missourians had not been moved in 
this way since the Rid Us of Reed battle of 1922. 

The great campaigns of the past were recalled by scenes like that of 
the Douglas rally in Sedalia, home of the State Fair. Three thousand 
men, women and children gathered in Shaffer's Grove for the speakin* 
and a fish fry. Neighbors visited happily together under the trees. Crowds 
stood before the refreshment booths and hurried through the eating to 
rush for the best seats arranged in tiers before a lighted speakers' plat- 
form, The speaking began and gradually the throng settled down. A full 
moon shed glory on Shaffer's Grove and a voice, amplified to unnatural 
volume and quality by loud speakers, charged the night air with a feeling 
of alarm and calamity. The people stirred restlessly and then were quiet 
for a long period. They did not seem to be in a hurry to leave when the 
meeting ended. Watching them, the politicians knew that a ground 
swell was coming. 

"A sinister and ominous shadow is raising its ugly head in an attempt 
to destroy the sanctity of our highest court," the Governor said in the 
speech that gave the keynote for his campaign. The shadow took defi- 
cite shape and grew as he went along, repeating charges, amplifying, 
drawing the whole Boss picture in his effort to convince the voters that 
Ais battle was a test between the super-government at 1908 Main Street 
and the people of Missouri rather than a dispute over the qualifications 
d two candidates for a judgeship. 

The campaign reached its zenith a week before the primary election 
when Governor Stark invaded Pendergast's home city and spoke before 
a crowd that jammed into the Hotel Muehlebach ballrpom at a meeting 


arranged by the Democratic Club o Kansas City, newly formed rival 
to the Boss club. Stark pulled no punches in the citadel of the machine 

Judge Douglas was nominated by a majority of 120,000, most of it 
produced by the farms and small towns. Jackson County delivered a 
total of 104,000 for Tom's candidate, a majority of 87,000, which repre- 
sented a decline in Pendergast voting strength at home but not enough 
of a one to inspire any loud cheering over the imminent doom of the 
machine. For this reason veteran political writers were inclined to view 
the machine setback conservatively. The Star interpreted the results as a 
reduction of Pendergast to third place among the state powers. Stark, 
the producer of this miracle, was allotted no better than second place. 
The Star's designation for No. i man in the Missouri Democracy went 
to that famous anti-New Dealer and expert fencerider, Bennett Clark. 

The morning after election Pendergast went to his offices at 1908 Main 
Street as usual. He appeared to be calm and unworried. Asked to com- 
ment on the election, he wanted to be quoted to the effect that the Re- 
publican press and the Republican voters had decided the Democratic 
contest, and it was true that a considerable number of Republicans voted 
for Douglas. Asked if he would support Douglas in the November elec- 
tion, Pendergast 'said bluntly that he considered that an impertinent 
question. He closed the interview with a sentence on which he probably 
had spent much thought. 

"In conclusion, let me say that the Democratic Party of Missouri will 
need the Democratic Party of Jackson County as it has needed it in the 
past, much more than the Jackson County Democracy will ever need the 
outstate Democracy." 

The formidable threat in this statement was well understood in Jeffer- 
son City and elsewhere, and nothing more disturbed the Democratic 
peace until after the November election, in which the Kansas City Demo- 
crats voted for Douglas along with the rest of the ticket, contributing to a 
rousing Democratic victory in Missouri which was in contrast to a 
sharp Republican trend in numerous other states. 

The next day Colonel E. J. McMahon, the new liquor office super- 
visor, fired three of the principal officials in the Kansas City division for 
failing to do their duty in a manner satisfactory to Governor Stark. The 

3 io TOM'S TOWN 

Kansas City spooks came out again, for the heat was on throughout the 
city. It would not lift this time until the Kansas City machine was de- 

Rumblings of the coming disaster must have been very audible to 
Uncle Tom but he was powerless to arrest the course of events or change 
his own line of conduct. Evidence that was made public a little later 
shows that he turned more feverishly to his gambling books, probably 
to seek escape from his other worries as well as to recoup his financial 
losses. In the last days of the year he had a run of luck with the ponies. 
Records discovered by the government showed a series of daily winnings 
in amounts from several hundred dollars to nearly five thousand dollars, 
and there was a rumor that in one race he plunged with $20,000 and won 

The New Year's celebration on Twelfth Street was the noisiest and 
one of the gayest in the memory of Kansas Citians. Governor Stark's 
snoopers were among the crowds that packed the street and churned 
slowly in and out of the joints. The investigators already had assembled a 
surplus of evidence and all the other preliminaries had been attended to 
in the operation that made this night the farewell to the Pendergast Free 
and Easy. 


JXJDGE ALLEN C. SOUTHERN, veteran dispenser o justice in the criminal 
division of the Jackson County Circuit Court, was not a gambling man 
but he knew when and how to call a bluff. He set about doing this with 
a grim look on his poker face in the first month of the year 1939, taking 
the lead in this momentous game in cooperation with two other non- 
gambling men who were experts in reading the cards Governor Stark 
and Federal Judge Reeves. 

The bluff that protected the gambling racket had grown immensely 
more forbidding since the last time anyone had been so foolhardy as to 
oppose it. The earlier grand jury investigations in the courts of Judge 
Southern and Judge Page depressed the vice traffic for only a brief period. 
Shift in the Kansas City police command from Reppert to Higgins and 
the violent removal of Johnny Lazia, regulator of the syndicates, had 
the effect of enlarging rather than decreasing the racket operations. Until 
Stark, Southern and Reeves teamed up for the final round, no one had 
dared to come out openly against the business in the dives, except some 
ministers and a forlorn band of P.T.A. ladies. In this period when the 
gyp enterprise was making its greatest expansion the only important 
challenge to the racketeers came from a pleasant, motherly woman by 
the name of Mrs. A. J. Dahlby, and the results in her case were disagree- 
able enough to discourage any more agitation along this line until Stark, 
Southern and Reeves started working together. 

Some of the obstacles which Judge Southern faced in 1939 were illus- 
trated forcefully in the Dahlby experience in the fall of 1935. Mrs. Dahl- 


3 i2 TOM'S TOWN 

by's husband was pastor of the Broadway Baptist Church and she helped 
him in the pulpit while managing their home and four children. She 
was filled with the evangelistic spirit of her Swedish forebears, from 
whom she also inherited a rugged constitution. Mrs. Dahlby went with 
her husband to India, where they spent a year and a half in missionary 
work. Soon after they came to Kansas City, Mrs. Dahlby herself became 
a licensed minister and teamed with her husband to make the Broadway 
Baptist Church a center of activity that was disturbing alike to the un- 
godly and the defenders of the status quo. Husband and wife placed 
equal emphasis on preparation for the perfect life hereafter and work 
for a better order in Kansas City in the twentieth century. The Reverend 
Mr. Dahlby startled conservative pillars of the congregation by declaring 
that "it is the church's place to protest against social injustice." 

Mrs. Dahlby produced more excitement when she turned the discus- 
sion to Kansas City gamblers. She was so eloquent that she started a 
movement to boycott all places of business that operated gambling de- 
vices, and drew a great hosanna from the Kansas City ministers at the 
same time that she frightened the businessmen with the suggestion that 
the churches employ the economic reprisal weapon in the service of the 
Lord. * 

The Executive Committee of the Council of Churches and the Min- 
isterial Alliance adopted resolutions approving the Dahlby idea and de- 
manding action by the city government to suppress the games* Frank 
H. Backstrom, Fusi9nist member of the City Council, introduced a reso- 
lution authorizing Mayor Smith to name a committee to investigate 
crime conditions. The resolution was promptly tabled, and killed a week 
later. This emergency was not one requiring Mayor Smith's attention* 
It needed Judge McElroy's attention. 

The Judge gave a very cagey performance, showing his remarkable 
versatility and utter cynicism. Dropping his usual bluster, he reverted 
quickly to the role of a sample, benign country fellow from Dunlap, 
Iowa* His courtesy, kindliness and sincerity won the hearts of the delega- 
tion from the P.T.A. and women's clubs, headed by Mrs. Dahlby, which 
called at the City Hall to get action on the reform. 

McElroy singled out Mrs. Dahlby for attention, praising her work for 
public morals and offering to engage Convention Hall for an immense 

PAY-OFF 313 

rally to be addressed by the lady preacher. Mrs. Dahlby glowed and 

"You know,** she said, *Tm glad I came down here. You are a grand 
man. You look like my dad." 

The Judge blushed, tossed his silver mane and went on to talk in- 
timately of conditions that shocked a sober country boy like himself, who 
never took a drink, or smoked, or gambled. He told how the gambling 
fever had spread among the best people of the town, mentioning the 
University Club, the Kansas City Club and the Mission Hills Country 
Club, popular retreats of wealthy citizens wjio publicly deplored the 
morals of machine government. 

"Gosh," said the Judge, "I guess I am the only highbrow here today. 
Just take a look at this card. The Kansas City Club is announcing that 
a series of keno games is to start at the club, for members and their 
families and friends." 

He showed the ladies a pile of petitions from owners of buildings pro- 
testing against police interference with "recreation." 

Concluding his little sermon, he asserted: "I could take you to the 
Kansas City Club, where I've been a member thirty-five years, and you 
probably would find about one hundred members gambling, including 
many leading business and professional men. Some of these rnen are of 
such standing you might hold them up as patterns for your boys." 

The ladies nodded and blinked their eyes in confusion. They de- 
parted still under the charm of the City Manager. When they got out in 
the fresh air and analyzed the import of the Judge's propaganda that 
the town's social leaders and businessmen wanted gambling conditions 
as they were, a few of them were disheartened. Mrs. Dahlby was not 
deflected from her purpose. By this time she had collected evidence that 
the masses wanted to be saved from the gambling evil if the classes did 
not. She was deluged with letters, most of them from the lower social 
orders, praising her good work. One came from a boy in prison saying 
he might have been directed to a useful life if the Baptist crusader had 
appeared on the scene earlier. Another came from a housewife who said 
she was planning to commit suicide after hocking her wedding ring for 
money which she lost in a tango game. 

"I had planned to commit suicide in their horrible place Thursday, the 

3 i4 'TOM'S TOWN 

seventh, which Is their bank night," she wrote, "but it seems the merciful 
Lord has intervened by putting it in your heart to start this crusade. I 
hope it is on the level, and will wait till the fifteenth, and if it is not closed 
by then I will know that the Good Lord wants me to sacrifice myself to 
free a money-mad crazy people from this horrible blood-sucking devil 
game tango." 

It is not known if the lady carried out her threat to die on the fifteenth. 
Mrs. Dahlby unfortunately had to leave town two days before that date, 
dropping her campaign in midflight. Instead of getting a chance to 
speak in Convention Hall, as the City Manager had promised, Mrs. 
Dahlby received a call from a strange woman who visited her home, 
alarming her with warnings and offer of money to change her interests. 
This messenger was followed by a man who represented himself as a 
lawyer working along the same lines. When these maneuvers failed to 
silence Mrs. Dahlby, the goon squad went to work, employing the tech- 
nique developed by gangsters and blackmailers to break the nerves of 
strong men. For two days the telephone in the Dahlby home rang steadily 
with calls from the ghostly agents of terror. Members of the family who 
answered the phone heard a sepulchral voice never the same twice 
saying, "Prepare to be taken for a ride," or "We'll get you," or "We'll 
drive you out of town." Mrs. Dahlby wilted when the threats were 
directed at her children as well as her husband and herself. Thirteen 
days after her crusade started, she left Kansas City with her children to 
be gone for several weeks. 

The incident provoked great indignation, a general feeling of inse- 
curity and helplessness, and no police action. 

Judge Southern encountered the same kind of resistance, With varia- 
tions on a wider scale, when he entered the January offensive against the 
gamblers. The Judge had as much determination as Mrs. Dahlby and 
considerably more skill and resources. His action coincided with the 
drive by Governor Stark, who marked 1939 as the cleanup year for 
Kansas City by ordering his attorney general to proceed to this front on 
t the first day of January. Southern's co-operation with the Stark investiga- 
tion was signified in mid-January when the sheriff staged surprise raids 
and the Judge issued search warrants for two of the syndicates' principal 
gambling resorts the Fortune Club for bingo and the Snooker Club. 

PAY-OFF 315 

This was a blow at the heart of the racket, for the Fortune was the 
special property of the machine's collector of the gambling lug. 

A day later the Judge called a panel of twenty-four citizens for a^rand 
jury investigation, ordering a secret session to guard the jurors from in- 
timidation and danger. Southern then found that popular sentiment 
against interfering with gambling and fear of the underworld were still 
high, for only twenty of the grand jury panel appeared in court and ten 
gave various excuses to get out of the duty. Proceedings were continued 
a week and meanwhile the conflict over the Fortune Club went forward. 
That action took two sensational turns when Charles V. Carollo, suc- 
cessor of Lazia, was brought into the picture as the secret owner of the 
club, and Judge Southern excluded the county attorney, W. W. Graves, 
Jr., from the investigation. 

A week later the grand jury panel was completed and notice was finally 
served that this was the bear cat of all investigations undertaken in the 
state courts. Alex S. Rankin, a pioneer of the N.YJM.-Fusion reform, was 
named foreman of the jury which the Star called the People's Jury in 
recognition of the fact that it contained no one who was likely to be 
friendly to the machine interests. Judge Southern and Governor Stark 
worked together to arouse the jurors and the public to the nature of the 
battle ahead. The Judge kept County Attorney Graves and Attorney 
General McKittrick at arm's length in the proceedings, pointing out that 
neither of these officials had exhibited any awareness of crime conditions 
in Kansas City that needed investigation. The jury had the assistance of 
three special aids to the attorney general, appointed at Governor Stark's 
insistence, and of a staff of investigators engaged by the governor with a 
fifty-thousand-dollar crime fund which he jammed through the Legisla- 

"You will need no one else in the grand jury room, gentlemen," Judge 
Southern explained. 

It was then that the intimidation squad started to work on Judge 
Southern. This was a major tactical error, accounted for by the fact that 
the Kansas City gangsters did not know as much about Independence 
and the Southerns as they should have. Judge Southern was at all times 
prepared to take care of himself and one notable exhibition of that fact 
had occurred in the building strike emergency of 1937, when word 


reached Independence that one of the union flying squads was going out 
from Kansas City to take nonunion workers off construction jobs in the 
old county seat town. The Judge, who owned property on which build- 
ing work was under way, oiled up his shotgun and went on sentry duty. 
No flying squadrons paused in the neighborhood where the rugged 
jurist held forth, two loaded shotguns close at hand. 

Kansas City was apprised of the full measure of the Southern temper 
a few days after the grand jury session started when the Judge quietly 
interrupted proceedings long enough to hand out a statement which he 
had written in his own hand and which he asked reporters to deliver to 
their editors. It read: 

Atlthe beginning of this term of court two public officials importuned me 
not to call a grand jury at this time because it would hurt the Democratic or- 
ganization. Since that time I have received covert threats and warnings, the 
last yesterday, to the effect that if I did not call this investigation ofFcertain 
public officials and police, who may be under investigation by the grand jury, 
would frame or have framed evidence Vvfith assistance of denizens of the under- 
world which attacks my character and personal moral integrity. 

You will understand that the purpose is to frighten and intimidate me for 
ks effect upon this investigation, and that, of course, if such framed evidence 
comes to your attention it is false and malicious and libelous, 

Please notify your superiors of this communication and oblige, 


The Democratic judge from Independence then turned back to his 
work with the grand jury, but the investigation was interrupted two 
days later when County Attorney Graves filed application for a writ of 
prohibition before the Missouri Supreme Court, contending the Southern 
investigation was an irregular proceeding because the prosecutor was 
barred from the grand jury room. Judge Southern went to Jefferson City 
to testify at the hearing on the writ of prohibition, and the Supreme 
Court, which so recently had figured in the Stark-Pendergast battle for 
control, quickly settled the issue by rejecting the Graves application. 

Back in Kansas City, Judge Southern assembled the grand jury to hear 
his instructions for an unlimited investigation, a dramatic charge in 
which it was clear that Prosecutor Graves, Big Charley Carollo and 
the gambling syndicate were the main targets. Governor Stark had de- 
manded action against the comity attorney at the outset of tiie inquiry, 

PAY-OFF 317 

with the statement: "His continued failure to prosecute ghastly felonies 
justifies his immediate removal from office." The grand jury complied 
by indicting the prosecutor on three counts and the attorney general 
later instituted ouster proceedings against him. 

The first count against Graves was based on his failure to prosecute 
Charles Gargotta, Lazia lieutenant, for his attempt to kill Sheriff Bash in 
the Armour Boulevard battle of 1933. Gargotta was the beneficiary of 
numerous continuances and a dismissal after he was acquitted on per- 
jured testimony at his first trial. The Southern grand jury revived the 
charge against him by indictment, and he pleaded guilty and went to 
prison at long last. 

Counts two and three against Graves alleged that he was present in 
the Oriental Club when liquor was sold on a Sunday in violation of the 
state law and present when it was sold without a state license, and that 
he did nothing about these violations. Graves closed his career as prose- 
cutor with his most vigorous action, spending the last year resisting the 
state's effort to remove him from office. He won a directed verdict of 
acquittal in a Jackson County Circuit Court, when the Judge sustained 
a defense demurrer to the state's evidence in the cases initiated by the 
Southern grand jury indictments, but he finally was ousted from office 
along with the Jackson County sheriff in an action before the state 
Supreme Court showing that there had been a breakdown in law en- 

Evidence produced in the various investigations and prosecutions 
showed that the gambling racket had grown to the proportions of a major 
industry in Jackson County. A commonly accepted estimate was that it 
did an annual gross of twelve million. Judge Southern estimated it at 
twenty million. 

The Southern effort was supplemented and enlarged by Federal Judge 
Reeves, who roared into action with a charge to a new Federal grand 
jury at the same time that Southern was directing the Circuit Court 
attack. Reeves gave a longer and much more fiery charge than any he 
had offered in the vote fraud investigations, for he was after bigger fish 
the higher-ups this time. 

**Kansas City today is a seething caldron of crime, licensed and pro- 

3 i8 TOM'S TOWN 

tected," he thundered in an address that aroused the grand jury to un- 
precedented action. 

The Calvary Baptist crusader on the Federal bench placed his finger 
on Carollo in his instructions and coupled this with a fascinating ex- 
planation of "the lug" as it operated in the gambling racket. From this 
assessment for protection from police interference, the syndicate annually 
raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to finance underworld opera- 
tions and political activities. Judge Reeves was unable to compute the 
total revenue realized from this source, but he presented enough evi- 
dence to indicate that it was a figure of staggering proportions. In this 
connection he gave the jury an exposition of the income tax law and the 
weapons it offered for prosecution of the syndicate collectors. 

The Reeves charge revealed how much spadework for this assault on 
the machine had been done by Federal operatives working out of Wash- 
ington. The Judge quoted at length from an official government report 
covering the findings of witnesses and agents who had probed into the 
Kansas City racket. This report was filled with records of big daily pay- 
offs, hints of murder and frequent mention of the Big Man who ruled 
the underworld. The government agent quoted by Reeves identified 
this individual only as the Big Man or "the subject," commenting: "I 
never saw any one individual, in all the years I have been connected 
with the United States government, who seemingly had so much power 
as the subject.'* 

To give the grand jury some idea of the extent of the traffic they were 
challenging, Judge Reeves read some details on the operation of just one 
resort, described by him as "the least dreadful of the places of crime in 
Kansas City . . . located within a residential district, within a stone's 
throw of some of the biggest and most important churches of Kan- 
sas City" obviously Carollo's Fortune Club. The government figures 
showed that this place paid one of the partners controlling it $30,500 in 
1937 and $35,000 in 1938 and, as Judge Reeves remarked, this was but 
one of hundreds of resorts in the city. 

An interesting sidelight on the "partnership" principle in the gambling 
syndicate was given a little later when Carollo was called to judgment 
for income tax evasion. Then it was shown how he got control of the 
Fortune. A couple of chumps from Los Angeles had started the club ia 


^ Ray i n The Kansas City Star 

Short Memory 

The Roosevelt administration's part in tbe cleanup was recalled by this cartoon in 
the city campaign o 1940. 

3 2o TOM'S TOWN 

June, 1934. Six months later Carollo notified them he was cutting him- 
self into a half-interest, figuring his protection was worth that much to 
his new partners. In March, 1938, he had grown so fond of the Fortune 
that he sent a letter to his partners advising them he was taking over 
the other half, enclosing a bill of sale and five thousand dollars each for 
their interest in a business that by conservative estimate was earning 
sixty thousand dollars a month. 

In the government report read to the jury by Reeves, there were several 
instances in which this partnership device was worked, but the principal 
account had to do with the lug. This assessment usually started at twenty 
per cent of the take when a dive was established and immediately began 
to climb. It amounted to forty per cent and more in some cases during 
the vote fraud prosecutions when overhead costs were heavy. Witnesses 
quoted in the report told of the efficiency of the system in protecting the 
Big Man, mentioning two incidents in which informants were put on 
the spot and stating that "None of the persons contacted by me were 
willing to appear in open court, stating that it was their firm conviction 
that if they did so or if it ever got out that they ha4 'talked' these men 
would see to it that they were taken for a ride or killed inside twenty-four 

Satisfied that the jurymen were sufficiently impressed with the gravity 
of the situation, Judge Reeves concluded: 

"Every citizen ought to be eager and anxious for his country's welfare 
to move upon a situation that is as startling as the one that I have given 
you today. Gentlemen, you have a great responsibility." 

At the time that this investigation got under way it was generally 
believed that Carollo, Lazia's former bodyguard, was the chief figure 
of the underworld. However, Federal authorities later disclosed in- 
formation that indicated Carollo was but the front for an even bigger 
man,, another Italian who was named by the agents but was not brought 
into court. But Charles Vincenzo Carollo born in 1902 in Santa Ris- 
tino, Italy, and never naturalized as an American citizen was sufficiently 
important to show that the Federal government was striking at the 
heart of the racket in its great assault of 1939. That impression was 
* heightened later in the year ? when Carollo was broiight into court for 

PAY-OFF 321 

sentencing for income tax violation and District Attorney Milligan de- 

"According to the records, Charles Carollo was an intimate friend and 
companion of one John Lazia, who met his death violently at the hands 
o unknown gunmen July 10, 1934. Accompanying Mr. Lazia was the 
defendant, Carollo, at the time he met his death. 

"John Lazia at the time of his death was reputed to be the vice lord 
o the underworld of Kansas City. The investigation into the back- 
ground of this defendant reveals the fact that after the death of Lazia 
this defendant took over the authority exercised by Lazia in his lifetime, 
relative to gambling and rackets carried on in Kansas City, Missouri; 
that he grew in power even greater than his predecessor; that he had a 
full entree into the offices of the high officials in the city administration. 
According to the testimony, he was seen going into and out o the 
private office of the former city manager; that he had full entree into 
the police headquarters, and almost daily was a visitor at the office of the 
director of police. 

"The testimony reveals that the defendant became the collector of the 
lug that was imposed on the gambling rackets of Kansas City who paid 
large sums of money monthly for the privilege of carrying on gambling 
games unmolested by the police officers of the city." 

It was later admitted that the reports of Carollo's actual authority in 
the underworld were exaggerated at this time 3 and that his chief func- 
tion was as collector of the lug and contact man with city officials! 
Total income from the lug could not be estimated, but District At- 
torney Milligan's statement gave an idea of its size, showing that annual 
collections oa only nineteen of the joints had jumped from $53,161 in 
1935 to $103,275 in 1938. Carollo finally admitted that he collected the 
lug for Pendergast, among others, making direct payments to the Boss 
or his secretary. It was estimated that Pendergast got forty per cent of 
the collection, the remainder being divided among five or six others 
in the syndicate. 

These revelations, and more, were made public in the months follow- 
ing the dramatic charge to the Reeves grand jury. 

While the Reeves grand jury proceeded to ky its great siege, the South- 


era grand jury drew in its net filled with big and little fry. When the jury 
brought in its final report March n, it raised the total number o indict- 
ments to 167 and announced that it had done no more than lift the "edge 
of the curtain." In addition to the Graves, Gargotta and Carollo indict- 
ments, the haul included indictment o the presiding judge of the County 
Court and a former judge of the Court for corruptly allowing a claim 
for $9,781.33 to pay for remodeling and repairing Gil P. Bourk's Jeffer- 
sonian Democratic Club, Inc.; indictment of a cleaners* and dyers' union 
business-agent for two bombings; and indictment of numerous liquor 
law violators along with the gamblers. The blows were so impressive that, 
contrary to expectations of Twelfth Street old-timers, the city police de- 
cided to keep the lid on the dives after the Southern grand jury recessed. 
Police Director Otto Higgins ordered a surprise raid on the one spot 
that defied the order the horse book retreat managed by Benny Port- 
man, the racketeer who had unwillingly acted as a go-between in the 
kidnaping of Mike Katz nine years earlier. Benny was constitutionally 
unable to believe in a reform order. He continued to operate until several 
years after the 1939 shutdown, and then he was the last of the big-time 
veterans to be slain in the usual manner. 

Popular attention was diverted from the Southern jury's work by re- 
ports on the progress of the Reeves jury. Early in March it was reported 
that the Federal investigation had broadened beyond the gambling racket 
to include insurance graft, with the jury inquiring into the disposition 
of a mysterious $447,000 fund. A subpoena was issued for A. L. McCor- 
mack, a stranger to most Kansas Citians. A second subpoena was issued 
for Walter H. Eckert, Chicago attorney for the trustees of Charles R. 
Street, the insurance executive who figured in the Missouri Compromise 
pay-off. In mid-March the jury issued subpoenas for a group of Eastern 
insurance executives, and they came to tell what they knew of the "mys- 
tery fund." 

Entering April, exactly a year after Boss Pendergast had commanded 
tie river to take its course, the air was filled with rumors and reports o 
developments in Kansas City and Washington which said that the Reeves 
investigation had caught a bigger man than the Big Man the grand jury 
was charged to bring in. 



THE STORY of T. J. Pendergast's last days of freedom is scattered in gov- 
ernment reports, court records, newspaper stories, private letters apd 
recollections of friends. This material has never been brought together 
in coherent form, but the main outlines and details of the picture created 
by the public record are sufficiently clear to leave a lasting impression. It 
shows the magnitude of the nightmare of deception, conflict and alarm 
in which the Boss lived for weeks, months and even years before the 
final reckoning in the spring- of 1939. Among other things, it compels 
respect for the massive staying powers of Tom Pendergast. 

The struggle began at the height of his success, long before his decline 
became evident to observers. He must have known he was overreaching 
himself, but he exhibited no disposition to yield. A statement presented 
at his sentencing by District Attorney Milligan shows that in 1935 the 
Pendergast horse-race bets and losses had attained proportions which 
meant he had to seek income outside his normal sources. The $315,000 
insurance graft he obtained in 1935 and 1936 represented but a fraction 
of the amount he needed to finance his gambling operations and support 
himself in the style to which he had become accustomed. 

A report that the Boss put the bite on intimates for a million dollars 
or more was published in the Star not long after his crash. In that ac- 
count Pendergast's old associate, John J. Pryor, was reported to have 
confided to a friend his misgivings over the way the Boss was handling 
his affairs in the spring of 1938. He related that Pendergast's calls for large 
gifts from friends started in 1937 and mentioned that his gambling fever 
had grown progressively worse since 1934. 

William D. Boyle, Pryor's partner, was said to have issued numerous 
checks or drafts for Pendergast for suspiciously large amounts which he 
requested Pryor ^to countersign. On several occasions, the Star story 
added, he even called Pryor from his bed at night with requests to with- 
draw sums from ten to a hundred thousand dollars for the Boss. 

**I told Boyle that T. J.'s craze for betting was going to get us all in 
trouble," Pryor was represented as saying by his unnamed friend. "Boyle 


said we had to come through. I told Bill several times that giving T. J. 
all that money would ruin us and T. J. both." 

It was estimated that the Pryor & Boyle companies dug up a million 
dollars in this manner and that the Old Man had blown between five 
and six million dollars on the horses since 1933, "a million a year at least."' 

The bookkeeping system for this amazing operation required the 
services of a wizard. How T. J. Pendergast managed to keep going at all 
is something of a mystery. A large staff o Treasury experts spent years 
trying to run down the transactions, but there were some details that 
baffled them. The Boss rarely used his bank account. Currency, drafts, 
telegraph money orders and express vouchers in the names of other per- 
sons were the forms in which he was paid. When he was in other cities, 
money was transmitted to him from Kansas City under assumed names, 
A part of his income was reported to the Federal government on the re- 
turns of associates or trusted employees. An ordinary individual could 
have spent a large part of his working time figuring up this scheme, yet 
T. J. was able to do it on the run while attending to his multitudinous 
other affairs. 

Despite the secrecy, the worry and the bother which grew increasingly 
more complicated, Tom Pendergast managed to present a fairly serene 
face to the world and to most of his friends. 

When the net closed around him in March and April of 1939, Pender- 
gast faced the emergency with perhaps less than his usual cairn, but he 
was still very much in command of himself and his organization. The 
attack against the machine was proceeding on four fronts from the 
Federal government, from the Criminal Court of the Jackson County 
Circuit, from Governor Stark, and from the local political opposition 
but there was no relaxing anywhere of the organization's resistance and 
the moves reflected the touch of a knowing and steady guiding hand. 

While the Reeves grand jury was calling witnesses in the insurance 
graft "mystery fund," T. J* was sending emissaries back to Washington 
to plead his cause with the national party leaders. One of his chief envoys 
was Otto P. Higgins, the police director, himself about to be drawn into 
the Federal income tax dragnet, Higgins spent a week in the national 
capital f utilely trying to see President Roosevelt. The chief result of his 

PAY-OFF 325 

mission was a demonstration on every side that the Roosevelt administra- 
tion was one hundred per cent behind the efforts of Governor Stark and 
District Attorney Milligan. Higgins was followed to Washington by 
the Boss's nephew and heir to the Goat crown, Jimmy Pendergast, who 
got more bad news. 

Signal that the long hunt had reached its end was given April 4 when 
Attorney General Frank Murphy and J. Edgar Hoover, head of the 
bureau of investigation, Department of Justice, flew to Kansas City to 
confer with District Attorney Milligan and the large F.B.I. staff that had 
been assembled there. The trip drew national attention and some political 
experts immediately announced that it was a New Deal grandstand effort 
to publicize the Kansas City cleanup as a counterattraction to Thomas E. 
Dewey's racket-busting show in New York. 

Thus ended the Federal investigation that had begun three years 
earlier, in April, 1936, with a casual inquiry into the income account of 
Ernest H. Hicks of the Chicago law firm of Hicks & Felonie. Hicks had 
died the previous October and the Bureau of Internal Revenue dis- 
covered, in a routine examination of the partnership books, an item of 
$100,500 that required explanation. This was a clue to the first install- 
ment on thf Missouri Compromise pay-off, but that fact was not known 
at the time or for some time afterward. 

Robert J. Felonie, the surviving partner of Hicks & Felonie, had been 
chief counsel for the fire insurance companies. The Federal investi- 
gators learned that the $100,500 on the partnership books was the record 
of a transaction with Charles R. Street, the insurance executive who 
represented the companies in the Missouri Compromise deal. The 
figure was the total amount of fourteen checks from various insurance 
companies which Street had deposited in the partnership account May 9, 
1935. On the same day the partnership had repaid by checks to Charles 
R. Street the entire $100,500. The investigation then moved to Street, 
who said that the money did not represent taxable income for him as 
it had been turned over to someone else. He refused to identify the 
recipient but finally intimated that the money went to an important 
political figure in Missouri though not a public official. Under pressure 
from the Bureau, he later explained that he could not reveal the name 
of the person involved until the liner Queen Mary arrived in New York 


on her maiden voyage in June, 1936. Federal agents checked the Queen 
Mary's passenger list and found Tom Pendergast. 

The investigation at this point was still far from its goal, however, 
After Pendergast's return on the Queen Mary, Street again refused to 
divulge the name of the man in the deal or to discuss the nature of 
the transaction. He filed an amended tax return on March 8, 1937, and 
paid the tax on the mysterious $100,500. It appeared for a time that the 
bribe had been successfully covered up and the investigators encountered 
a further handicap when Street died in 1938. But by this time the Fed- 
eral agents had taken a large interest in the case and knew where they 
were headed. One of the untold stories in the long search, and one that 
may never be told until he is ready to tell it, concerns a Missouri news- 
paperman in Washington who has been credited by some authorities 
with reviving the Treasury intelligence unit's interest in the case after 
Street closed the door. It is said that he provided leads and information 
which convinced the agents that the $100,500 was part of a larger pay-off 
connected with the Missouri insurance settlement. 

Further help from Missouri was given by District Attorney Milligan 
in Kansas City and by Governor Stark, who was reported to have con- 
ferred on this matter with both President Roosevelt and Henry Morgen- 
thau, Jr., Secretary of the Treasury. The hunt quickened with the acci- 
dental discovery of a special fund of $317,000 which Street maintained. 
Checks from Street to A. L. McCormack, Missouri insurance man who 
figured in the case, opened another trail. Elmer L. Irey's men of the 
Treasury Intelligence operated in many cities winding up their extraor- 
dinary search in the Pendergast financial labyrinth. Final break came 
when District Attorney Milligan called the insurance executives before 
the grand jury and prevailed on them to use their influence to get Agent 
A. L. McCormack to tell the inside story. After a long sweating, the 
agent went to Milligan's office and haltingly told the tale which filled in 
the missing pieces of the Missouri Compromise riddle. 

Three days after Attorney General Murphy and G-man Hoover made 
their flying visit to Kansas City, the Federal grand jury returned its first 
indictment of Pendergast for violation of the income tax law, along with 
ai* indictment of R. Emmet O'Malley under the same law. The Boss 
went to his arraignment with a dignified step and a placid air. His blue 

PAY-OFF 327 

eyes were bright and his powerful hands steady when he stood in the 
United States marshal's office. A detailed and dramatic account of the 
Boss in this scene was written for the Star by Paul Fisher, who reported 
that Pendergast's only show of emotion occurred when his fingerprints 
were about to be taken. One of his lawyers attempted to help him take 
off his overcoat and Pendergast shrugged him away. 

Til take it off/' he said audibly enough to be heard by Reporter Fisher. 
"There's nothing the matter with me. They persecuted Christ on Good 
Friday, and nailed him to the Cross." 

It was April 7, 1939 Good Friday and oi^this day Emmet O'Malley, 
visiting in the East, went into the Catholic Cathedral in Baltimore, Mary- 
land, to pray for his soul. 

Pendergast's good humor returned immediately after he had taken off 
his overcoat without help. He flashed a smile at his lawyer. His son, T. J., 
Jr., and his nephew, Jim, stood near by. 

A deputy marshal inquired if Pendergast wanted the newspaper 
photographers to photograph him having the prints taken. 

"Hell, they have a million," Pendergast growled. 

"You are five feet nine, aren't you?" 

"I was," the Boss replied with a chuckle. "I've grown shorter* They 
say, you know, that age shortens a man." 

"Your hair is gray?" 

"What's left of it is gray." - 

Then the Goat leader and his party went before the commissioner of 
the court, where Pendergast was released on a ten-thousand-dollar bond 
and told to appear in Federal Court April 24 to have his trial date set. 
There were numerous friends of T. J. in the group that watched when 
he turned to leave, and hands reached out to pat him on the back. He 
walked out with impressive dignity. 

Later in the month the Federal grand jury indicted Pendergast on a 
second count for income tax evasion and this interval was filled with 
the lightning and thunder of the storm that was toppling the machine. 
District Attorney Milligan was in charge of five Federal agencies on 
special Kansas City assignment. United States agents uncovered a nar- 
cotics ring that was taking an estimated twelve million dollars a year 
from addicts, and the Reeves grand jury returned thirty-three indict- 


merits in that case. City Manager McElroy resigned and Mayor Smith 
seized his powers. O'Malley took a leave from his post as City Water 
Department director and Police Director Higgins resigned. Governor 
Stark directed an intensive offensive in the General Assembly for a new 
bill designed to end Home Rule in Kansas City and restore control of 
the police to the governor. 

Mayor Smith got the Council to order an audit of the city books, and 
a second audit was started by the Civic Research Institute while pressure 
was put on the County Court for a county audit. The Star did not wait 
for the audits but started a series of disclosures based on the analyses and 
findings of reporters working with records made available by the new 
Smith regime at the City Hall and the Federal investigation. 

The Federal grand jury lifted the lid on the garbage scandal with the 
revelation that members of Pendergast's family held two fifths of the 
shares in the Sanitary Service Company. Examination of City Hall rec- 
ords uncovered the $356,000 water leak scandal, involving Pryor and 
McElroy. There was something new every day. 

On May Day, Pendergast and O'Malley went before Federal Judge 
Otis to enter formal pleas of not guilty and have their trials set. They 
were followed immediately by Charley Carollo, indicted for using the 
mails to defraud in the Fortune Club operation, and he also pleaded 
not guilty. Following him were three ringleaders in the narcotics racket, 
who also pleaded not guilty. The defense still held tight all along the 

The next day brought a sign of the frantic disturbance within the 
organization when it was learned that Edward L. Schneider, secretary- 
treasurer of seven of Pendergast's companies, had mysteriously disap- 
peared. His motor car was found empty in the middle of the Fairfax 
Bridge over the Missouri River, and inside it were two suicide notes of 
farewell to his wife and daughter. Investigation disclosed that he had 
made a full statement of his transactions for Pendergast to the grand jury 
three days before this incident. One of the last persons to see him alive 
was Otto Higgins, the former police director, who visited him at his 
home less than two hours before the Schneider car was driven on the 
bridge. Higgins shed no light on the mystery. Schneider's body was re- 
covered from the rivet five days later and the case remained unsolved. 

PAY-OFF 329 

In the days that followed, the political attack grew, the Federal grand 
jury widened the scope of its income tax investigation, and the Boss 
finally decided to surrender. On the twenty-second of May, T. J. Pender- 
gast went to the Federal Court to plead guilty to both indictments 
against him. A large part of the hearing was devoted to testimony from 
his physician giving a detailed report of the Boss's state of health. He 
had been a very sick man. Following the heart attack in New York in 
1936, he had undergone three operations for the correction of an intestinal 
obstruction and this had been managed by the construction of an arti- 
ficial device in his side. His physician would not say whether his life 
expectancy was good for five years. 

The total tax due on Pendergast's evasion was $830,494.73, with penal- 
ties, and the government agreed to settle the bill for $350,000. Judge Otis 
sentenced Pendergast to serve fifteen months in Federal prison and fined 
him $10,000 on one count. The court set the sentence at three years on the 
second count but suspended it with probation for five years. There was 
an immediate outcry from antimachine quarters over the seeming mild- 
ness of this punishment. Judge Otis defended his judgment, pointing 
out that in assessing the penalty the court could not give special consid- 
eration to the source of the money that was hidden from the tax collector. 
The judge obviously gave some weight to consideration of the prisoner's 
health but it soon thereafter became evident that his sentence was not a 
mild one. Examination of the terms of the probation showed that this 
amounted to exile for the political boss, and it was in effect a life term. 

Five days after Pendergast's day in court, O'Malley entered a plea of 
guilty to income tax evasion and was sentenced to a year and a day in 
prison and fined five thousand dollars. Of the four principals in the in- 
surance compromise pay-off, Pendergast and O'Malley were the only 
ones who went to prison. Charles R. Street, the insurance executive who 
raised the money, was dead. A. L. McCormack, the agent who was the 
go-between and later served as a government witness, finally got off 
with probation on a two-year sentence based on a contempt of court 
charge covering his part in the corrupt settlement. 

The Federal investigation continued and resulted somewhat later ia, 
the sentencing of several other important figures in the machine. Con- 


tractor John J. Pryor was given a two-year term for income tax evasion 
and the investigation revealed his earnings were the highest in the boss- 
favored company. Matthew S. Murray, who had served as Missouri 
director of the WPA and also director of public works in Kansas City, 
drew a two-year term for failing to pay taxes on about $90,000. It was 
estimated that two hundred and fifty million dollars was spent on the 
projects under his supervision in the Missouri WPA and the Kansas 
City Public Works Department. His defense in the income tax case 
was highlighted by his contention that some fifty thousand dollars he 
received was nontaxable income because it represented gifts from Pryor 
and Pendergast. 

Another who took the trail to the Federal prison at Leavenworth was 
Otto P. Higgins, who was indicted not long after he resigned as police 
director. He pleaded guilty to evading payment of taxes on $65,170 of 
unreported income received during the great part of his term in office 
and was given a two-year term. He was followed to Leavenworth peni- 
tentiary by Big Charley Carollo, collector of the gambling syndicate, 
who drew 'sentences totaling eight years one year for using the mails 
to defraud in a lottery, three years for failing to report a large part of 
$654,391 income over four years, and four years for perjury in an effort 
to conceal his operations as the machine's collector of the lug on gam- 
bling houses. After arriving in Leavenworth, he was involved in a 
conspiracy to smuggle contraband articles into the prison and was trans- 
ferred to Alcatraz. 

These were the major actions of the cleanup that started in 1939 and 
they required many months for completion, Meanwhile, the assault on 
the machine proceeded along many other lines, with audits, grand jury 
investigations, court trials and general agitation that resulted in the 
retirement of numerous city officials* the resignation of the presiding 
judge of the County Court and the removal of the county prosecutor and 
the sheriff. The actions that were to bring about those changes had been 
initiated or foreshadowed by the time that the Boss departed for prison* 

The two old partners in politics and insurance, Pendergast and O'Mal- 
ley, made the short trip to the Federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, the 
same day, May 29, 1939. Following his usual custom, T. J. Pendergast 
arose early and left i& a car, accompanied only by his son and nephew. 

PAY-OFF 33* 

The party arrived at the east prison gate at eight-forty o'clock in the 
morning and Uncle Tom, bag in hand, walked quietly to the entrance 
without looking back. Throughout this long ordeal he had shown no 
weakening of his iron nerve. He didn't break until after he was dressed 
in and saw the photograph of himself in convict's uniform. Then the 
heart of T. J., for a second time, almost stopped forever. 


MAYOR BRYCE B. SMITH, the big little bakery man, realized his ambition 
to take over City Manager McElroy's office and run Kansas City in the 
last nine months of 1939. Puffing on his fat cigar and glowering in a 
manner nobody had seen before, the diminutive mayor served notice on 
McElroy to quit his post six days after the first indictment of Boss Pen- 
dergast. The Judge put on his hat at a rakish angle and took his bean-pole 
figure out of the City Hall with great dignity shortly before the lunch 
hour of April 13, leaving behind a piece of paper which said simply: "I 
hereby tender my resignation as city manager, H. . McElroy." 

The resignation was dated the day before the mayor staged his success- 
ful coup against the man who had humiliated him for eight years. 
Smith's action was made with the explanation that he had decided to step 
beyond the powers granted the mayor by the nonpartisan charter, to 
preserve order and peace in the town during the interim period between 
the Pendergast blowup and the reorganization of the city government. 
Almost everyone was surprised by this sudden show of energy on Mayor 
Smith's part and the ease with which he seized control from McElroy. It 
was never explained whether Mr. Smith originated this move all by 
himself, but if he did he is entitled to credit for more political initiative 
than he is commonly allowed. It was a well-timed maneuver, coming be- 
fore anybody besides Mr. Smith had a chance to recover from the excite- 
ment of the last few days. The new regime started with the majority of 
the Council supporting the mayor and a vast majority of the population 
wishing him good luck. 

The Mayor seemed to feel that his sudden elevation to the front office 
had changed everything. 


"Kansas City is clean now and is going to stay clean, 9 * he proclaimed in 
a statement to the press. 

Reached at his home by telephone and asked to comment, McElroy 
said: "I am as cool as a cucumber but I am saying nothing, not a thing." 
It was his last word to the people he had managed for thirteen years. 

In the days and weeks that followed, it was difficult at times to follow 
the direction of the Bryce Smith reform and make out who was running 
the mayor. The trouble was not caused by lack of earnest effort and good 
will on the part of Mr, Smith. He was naturally such an amiable in- 
dividual that he wanted to please everybody, with the exception of Gov- 
ernor Stark and a few extremist ministers and the Republicans. He 
welcomed the advice and co-operation of the Star and the leading busi- 
nessmen, and he let his friends and associates in the organization know 
that he had their interests at heart. The result was that half the time 
Mayor Smith appeared to be carrying on a reform and the rest of the 
time it was clear that his administration was working to save the rem- 
nants of the Democratic organization. 

In order to keep the reins in his own hands and still observe the charter 
provisions that limited the mayor's authority to that of president pro 
tempore of the City Council, Mr. Smith picked a city manager he could 
trust. His choice was Eugene C. Zachman, Mr. Smith's secretary. Mr. 
Zachman was a handsome young man who wore his clothes stylishly, and 
the businessmen and politicians regarded him glumly at first. Outside 
of his association with Mayor Smith, his only known preparation for his 
difficult new role had been obtained as a newspaperman when he was a 
reporter for the Kansas City Journal-Post. Everyone was surprised at the 
taknt which Mr. Zachman displayed in administrative work and the 
political life. 

The team of Smith and Zachman made many changes in the City 
Hall, reducing expenses, cutting the payroll, ordering an audit, shifting 
personnel, firing some department heads, reorganizing here and there 
and getting more efficiency on all sides. In the first few months of the 
Smith regime, eight important department heads all of them pillars o 
the machine organization were removed from office, a process that was 
hastened somewhat by the urging of a businessmen's committee and the 
action of the courts. 

PAY-OFF 333 

Chief pressure on the reform mayor came from a formidable group 
of self-appointed advisers known as the Forward Kansas City Com- 
mittee. This outfit was dominated by influential bankers, realtors and 
manufacturers who had been conspicuous in the latter-day opposition to 
the machine. Their Forward Kansas City Committee drew up an elabo- 
rate program that Mayor Smith was expected to follow. The Committee 
closely checked every move of the city administration and was quick to 
issue critical statements when things didn't go forward fast enough to 
suit the leading citizens. The businessmen's "ideal city manager" had 
turned sour on them in the experiment with party machine government 
and they made sure that the reform would turn out to their liking. 

Mayor Smith's moves were neither eager nor extensive enough to 
satisfy all the Forward men but the main criticism of the interim govern- 
ment at first came from outside the business circle. The ministers of the 
old Mayerberg Charter League movement wanted more action. Governor 
Stark, in the state capital, exhibited no confidence whatever in the Smith 
crusade. The Governor was about to present Kansas City with another 
major reform measure in the form of a new law that ended Home Rule 
for the police. He roared at Smith when the Mayor and his new city 
manager went to JeflEerson City to lobby against the police bill 

"It may surprise some of my listeners to learn that Kansas City has a 
mayor," Stark said. "That fact has corne to light in recent weeks in a most 
peculiar manner. It is an adequate measure of the desperate straits in 
which the Pendergast organization finds itself that it feels impelled to 
produce this hitherto obscure gentleman and push him to the front with 
the sign Civic Virtue pinned to his coattails." 

The police bill was rushed through the Legislature, with Stark's follow- 
ing mustering the votes to overwhelm the organization die-hards, and 
Home Rule for Kansas City ended in July, 1939. Imbued with the Stark 
crusading zeal, the new Police Board appointed by the Governor looked 
far and wide for a fanatic in law enforcement and found their man in 
the extraordinary Lear B. Reed, G-man; and with his selection as police 
chief the reform started toward an extreme which confounded even 
some of the rabid agitators for a change. 

Meanwhile, public sentiment for a complete change at the City Hall < 
was kept alive by disclosure of various details of the Country B&ok- 


keeping system which McElroy had operated with no interference from 
the City Council or the Ten-Year-Bond advisory committee. In nine 
years, twenty-six millions of the thirty-three million Ten-Year bonds had 
been sold, a large part of this money being spent without competitive 
bidding for contracts and a substantial share of the business going to the 
Pendergast companies. 

The city entered 1939 with an admitted deficit of $1,500,000 in thfe 
general operating fund, and city employees were informed there was 
nothing in the till to cover their salaries for the last four months of the 
fiscal year. 

One of the interesting items turned up in the investigations was an 
estimate of the size of "Cut and Lug," as the citizens called the system 
that was used to spread the expense of machine government among the 
small fry in the ranks. The Cut was a kickback from Gity Hall salaries, 
which varied from twenty-five to fifty per cent a month through several 
months of each year, depending on how much the city administration 
needed in order to make ends meet. This cut was imposed without 
Council authorization or ordinance, and the Country Bookkeeper got 
around that charter requirement by having employees sign slips of paper 
requesting the reduction in pay, with the understanding that the amount 
withheld was to be repaid later when the city was again in clover, which 
it never was so long as McElroy was in the City Hall. In addition to these 
special pay cuts, the city employees had taken a twenty per cent reduc- 
tion in base pay by Council ordinance in 1933. The Lug was the assess- 
ment placed on the pay of city and county employees to raise campaign 
funds for the party, and this collection grew in size each year until it was 
admitted to have exceeded $200,000 in 1938, but may have been double 
that figure, as a full accounting was never made. Cut and Lug be- 
tween them were estimated to have taken more than ten million dollars 
from the rank-and-file over a decade. 

Total amount squandered and illegally diverted through the long 
period of machine rule was beyond computation btit when the various 
audits and investigations were completed, t^je bill included these items: 

A deficit of $19,453,976 in claims and accounft. 

Funds for retirement of $11,000,000 water sinking-fund bonds due 
July i, 1942, unlawfully diverted to other purposes. 

5. /. Ray in The Kansas City Star 

The Atk Springs Another Leak 

The "water leak," discovered in 1939, was a bookkeeping operation that cost the 
city $356,060. 


Expenditure of $11,445,009 from Ten-Year-Bond funds without con- 
tracts as required by law. 

Operating fund deficit of $2,733,185. 

Diversion of $3,263,623 of improvement bond money to pay wages of 
city employees. 

Unrecorded liabilities of $1,200,000. 

An additional sum of $2,692,126 diverted to unauthorized uses. 

The boss regime also left a large bill for back pay of city employees 
and the succeeding administration found that claims and judgments in 
this account totaled $6,825,250. 

It was estimated that the delinquent tax bill totaled another ten million 
dollars and the size of the tax favoritism racket was suggested by the 
report that tax abatements in 1938 totaled $684,005. 

Money squandered by the device of payroll padding was beyond cal- 
culation. When Mayor Smith opened the records, it was found that the 
number on the city payroll was 5,200 against the 3,200 or 3,500 indicated 
by McElroy. The Smith regime immediately dropped 700, but the search 
for the pads was still incomplete. 

In the final count, total number of city employees was put at 6,500 
(as against the 3,500 currently -on the city payroll) and many of these 
did no work other than cash their checks. 

One o the more sensational items turned up in the City Hall investi- 
gation was the big "water leak." This was an arrangement by which 
the Rathford Engineering Company was paid five thousand dollars 
a month to look for water leaks > a service that required hardly any 
effort outside of the bookkeeping but took $356,500 of the taxpayers* 
money over a period of years. Rathford was the front in this business for 
Boyle and Pryor. Rathford performed most of the easy labor required in 
looking for leaks and most of the money went to Pendergast's associates. 
One of Rathf ord's assistants for a time was W. E. Burnett, Jr., son-in-law 
of Pendergast. McElroy and Pryor were indicted on conspiracy to de- 
fraud charges. Pryor, the only one brought to trial, was acquitted but he 
and the Boyle estate later paid back $40,000 in a settlement with the city. 

A mystery that intrigued the public's fancy throughout the spring and 
sai&mer was the McElroy emergency fund. This was the prime exhibit 
kt'Sam Country Bookkeeping system, the fund he invented to have cash 

PAY-OFF 337 

on hand at all times. Several unsuccessful efforts were made to force 
McElroy to surrender his records on the handling of this fund, but he 
was preoccupied with a more important judgment than the one his 
successors were preparing. 

The auditor's report established that the emergency fund amounted to 
$5,843,643.56 over a period of seven and one-half years. It was assembled 
by ignoring the charter regulations to draw on the Ten-Year Bond 
money, the city treasurer and the funds of other departments. The report 
showed that nearly four million dollars was returned to sources which 
had made the advances and the remainder covered a wide variety of 
payments to people and corporations with claims against the city. 

McElroy was dying when the Smith reform reached a crisis in Sep- 
tember. A recall movement, started by various individuals and groups, 
grew to the dimensions where it couldn't be controlled by the conserva- 
tive members of the Forward Kansas City Committee. Mayor Smith, 
who had promised to resign if recall petitions were signed by as many as 
forty thousand citizens, suffered a lapse of memory on this point. He 
angered the Forward men by his failure to restrain organization stal- 
warts in the City Hall who took elaborate measures to discourage and 
obstruct the recall movement. A break between the committee and Smith 
was imminent on September 15, when Judge McElroy died at the age of 
seventy-four, after weeks of illness from eye trouble and heart disease. 
At the time that death released him from the struggle he faced indict- 
ments in the water leak deal and was under Federal investigation on his 
income tax account. 

The battle for control of -the City Hall did not pause while the Judge 
was being buried. Mayor Smith broke with the Forward Committee late 
in September and the main battle shifted to recall and to a fight for 
control of the city manager's post for the remainder of the interim period. 

Mayor Smith was caught in a crossfire in the final stages of the con- 
test. The Forward Committee turned against him because of the Demo- 
cratic maneuvers to block the recall movement. The recall campaign 
struck a bump when three Councilmen resigned and the Council elected 
their successors, who were not subject to recall for six months under the 
law and who could not easily be charged with responsibility foj the 
McElroy administration, in any case. A further complication was pro 


vided by the city clerk, who played a game of hide-and-seek with the 
recall petitions and employed other devices to delay or prevent the 
recall election. 

While the Forward Committee assailed Smith over these tactics, cer- 
tain organization leaders found that the Mayor was growing too inde- 
pendent and this difference inside the Democratic Party reached a 
climax over two important offices in the City Hall. The office of city 
manager was vacated when Smith's man, Zachman, evidently sensing 
the approaching showdown, resigned to take the post of director of the 
Municipal Auditorium. Then Sam C. Blair stepped out of the office 
of city counselor. Blair, a young man who had distinguished himself 
as one of District Attorney Milligan's brilliant assistants in the vote- 
fraud cases, had taken the city counselor's office soon after Smith seized 
McEIroy's powers. A Democrat from Cole County, he seemed happy 
to remove himself from the Kansas City imbroglio when Governor Stark 
appointed him to a circuit judgeship. 

In the competition over these two offices, Mayor Smith gave perhaps 
his outstanding exhibition of independence. He succeeded in getting 
the Council to appoint a temporary city manager of his choice, J. V, 
Lewis. Meanwhile, he conducted a vigorous agitation for employment of 
a trained municipal administrator from out of town. His selection was 
L, P. Cookingham, the expert who became the city manager of the 
highly successful administration that was established in 1940, and who 
still holds that office. But Mayor Smith was too advanced in this matter 
for the Democratic powers in 1939. They wanted to keep the city 
managership in the hands of one of their faithful followers and the 
result^ was an action which Mayor Smith denounced as a double-cross 
engineered by members of the Council who had been the first to call 
on him to save the administration after the McElroy retirement. 

Working behind the Mayor's back, leaders of the Goat and Rabbit 
factions got five-to-four control of the City Council and selected William 
M. Drennon, retired insurance executive and a friend of the late H. F. 
McElroy, to be city manager. Bryce Smith rebelled and his last effort to 
outwit the opposition produced a comic opera scene in the City Hall. 
The Mayor hurried to put an independent man in the city counselor's 
office before the Drennon regime could take over. Smith's choice for this 

PAY-OFF 339 

post was Jerome Walsh, son of the late Frank P. Walsh, and he had retir- 
ing City Manager Lewis appoint Walsh before incoming City Manager 
Drennon was sworn in. Walsh was in the mayor's office waiting to take 
the oath, but the ceremony was held up by a suspicious sort of delay in 
transmitting the commission from the city clerk's office. Then the door 
opened to admit Councilmen Garrett and Clark and Mr. Drennon. 
Informed that Mr. Walsh was about to be sworn in as city counselor, 
Councilman Garrett bellowed: 

"Who appointed him?" 

"The city manager, Mr. Lewis," Smith replied. 

"Well," Garrett roared again, "Mr. Lewis is not city manager. Mr. 
Drennon is the city manager." 

The boss majority on the Council had sworn him in twenty-five 
minutes earlier. 

Jerry Walsh snorted: 

"Here goes the city counselor with the shortest record in the history of 
Kansas City." 

Resigning in protest, Mayor Smith stepped out of office at the year's 
end with a statement reviewing the achievements of his administration 
in the last eight months. It was a list of thirty-one points, all of them 
covering important improvements. The Smith farewell in politics was 
climaxed by an ovation which he received when he appeared at the 
annual Fathers-and-Sons* luncheon of Rotary, Taking the bows and 
smiling happily, the little mayor showed that he had emerged from the 
battle with his amiable disposition intact. *Tve kept my sense of humor 
and that's a big help," he said. 

The Drennon maneuver came too late to save the machine, for by this 
time the recall movement had cleared the road for the final drive. Ob- 
structed by illegal interference with recall petitions against individual 
members of the council, the reform groups decided to seek an amend- 
ment of the charter which would shorten the terms of the councilmen 
from four to two years. This amendment would bring an election early 
in 1940, at which the citizens could vote to change the entire administra- 
tion. The charter amendment election was set for February 13 and its 
approval was confidently forecast. There remained on the calendar only 
one more tragic occurrence before the next test at the polls. 

34 o TOM'S TOWN 


IT WAS LEFT to Mary McElroy to say the last word for the Judge. Late in 
June of 1939, when she was guarding her father from interviewers and 
investigators while he lay ill, this comment was attributed to Miss 
McElroy in an item printed in the Star: 

You know that during the last few years unusual conditions have prevailed 
and emergencies have arisen that had to be met. Dad's nature is to meet, not 
dodge, any situation. 

He has done certain things that, technically, can be criticized but he has not 
done anything that is economically unsound or ethically wrong. All of this 
will be made clear to the people of Kansas City. In the meantime my greatest 
concern is for my father's health. 

The things that Mary saw in the Judge's vindication have never been 
made entirely clear but Mary was, none the less, a most eloquent witness 
for the Judge and her story is remembered whenever there is talk of 
H. F. McElroy, his work and his time. 

Mary McElroy was thirty-one years old in the summer of 1939 when 
she watched over her father at St. Mary's Hospital, where he went for an 
operation to remove a cataract from one eye, and at their home at 21 West 
Fifty-seventh Street, where he lived in a wheel-chair and in bed until his 
death in September of that year. Miss McElroy had been watching over 
the Judge throughout most of his thirteen years as city manager. The 
popular notion was that she was so often in the Judge's company because 
he wanted to keep her close under his eyes, but the fact is that Mary was 
as much responsible for this arrangement as her father. 

McElroy had two children Mary and her brother, Henry. The illness 
and death of their mother placed upon the father the full responsibility 
for their rearing, and he discharged this task with a rare devotion. Mary 
was his favorite, his special concern. When she entered young woman- 
hood, Mary made the widowed Judge her exclusive responsibility. McEl- 
roy- was an indulgent father who allowed his children wide personal 
freedom. He encouraged Mary to engage in activities, outside the home, 
but she never strayed far or long. She was the Judge's persistent shadow* 
She went -with him to the City Hall to observe Council meetings and 

PAY-OFF 341 

followed him when he traveled about town on official business. She 
stood beside him at dedication ceremonies and when he welcomed im- 
portant visitors to Kansas City. Her pictures appeared in the newspapers 
in countless poses at affairs graced by the presence of the City Manager 
and his' daughter. They walked together on Sunday morning strolls, 
chatting happily and smiling on passersby, some o whom were startled 
by this rare view of the testy City Manager. 

Mary McElroy seemed unsure of herself and never entirely happy 
when she was out of her father's company. She was a tall, big-boned and 
rangy girl whose most conspicuous features were her large, generous 
mouth and her wide, haunted eyes. She had little of her father's arro- 
gance and seemed to be shy and self-conscious even when she was putting 
on airs. She tried hard to be smart and gay but the pose was painful. She 
wore brigfct colors, decorative jewelry, big hats and the newest extremes 
in style but her plainness was always evident. , 

The Judge taught Mary to be proud, independent, self-reliant. One of 
his favorite stories was of the time he let her travel alone to Chicago 
when she was a young girl. In her excitement she left her purse behind 
and when the train was under way she discovered that she had no ticket 
and only twenty-five cents in change. She efficiently explained the situa- 
tion to the conductor and had him telegraph her father to make the 
proper arrangements. Arriving in Chicago, she sent her father a^ gay 
message telling him she had more fun riding without a ticket than she 
would have had if she had one. When Mary finished high school the 
Judge sent her to a college for girls at Rockf ord, Illinois, where she exhib- 
ited the McElroy f orcef ulness by getting herself elected president of the 
student body. Her father was elated when he heard that she had chal- 
lenged the college authorities with her defense of a girl who was about 
to be expelled for infraction of the rules. 

Mary's pride and self-reliance drew their strength from her intense 
regard for her father, whom she called Old Boy. The few things that 
she did to win distinction and impress her personality on others were 
things that accorded with her conception of what was required of Judge 
McElroy's daughter. * 

Mary took huge amusement in the tales of the Old Boy's crotchets and 
tempers and was not disturbed by the popular impression that he was 


mean, vindictive and tyrannical. She saw that his enemies exploited the 
incidents when he cracked heads and called names. They remembered 
the time when he sent a cut-glass bottle full of castor oil to the Republican 
Police Board in response to a plea for the policemen's wages; when he 
built a spite fence against a restaurant on Twelfth Street that defied his 
order to vacate the property for a public project; when he butted a slow 
automobile in traffic; when he refused to repair the paving on Wornall 
Road for property owners who wouldn't pay for a new concrete slab 
he wanted to build; when he harassed J. C. Nichols and the South Siders 
who obstructed his building program. They didn't talk about the 
McElroy who stopped his car in traffic downtown to help an old beggar 
woman across the street, who maintained a soup kitchen on the North 
Side and gave handouts to many obscure callers at the City Hall, or if 
they mentioned these things they spoke of them derisively as cheap ges- 
tures for political favor. It was easy for a loyal daughter of the City 
Manager to feel that he was a deliberately misunderstood and unappre- 
ciated man. She never doubted that the heads he cracked needed crack- 
ing, and no one exhibited more appreciation of the exuberant perform- 
ance he gave in carrying out the work he was so admirably designed for. 

The idea that the Judge was the City Council's Hired Man was a 
great joke to the McElroys. Their attitude was shown in humorous 
fashion at the inauguration of 1938 when the Judge was elected city 
manager for the last time. His name was put in nomination and the 
Old Boy took the floor to give his acceptance speech, and then paused 
when he realized that no seconding motion had yet been made and no 
vote taken. Mary McElroy's soprano was the merriest sound in the gale 
of laughter that greeted this faux pas. 

This scene at the City Hall typified the relationship that existed be- 
tween father and daughter but beneath the girl's acceptance of domina- 
tion by the powerful individuality of her parent there was a clash of wills, 
interests and purposes that found expression in Mary's growing restless- 
ness and finally produced a crisis in the bizarre episode of the Mary 
McElroy kidnaping in May, 1933. That affair had lasting consequences 
for both of the McElroys but the crime and the chase and capture that 
followed produced so much excitement that the public obtainecf only a 
confused impression o the main effect. The abduction was a matter of 

PAY-OFF 343 

political moment, for it demonstrated the inability of the machine to 
discipline the underworld through Home Rule, but its significance in 
that respect was entirely secondary. In retrospect, the chief interest 
is in the mood and spirit of the time as reflected so fantastically in this 
case. For the people as a whole, it was a vast crime sensation played out 
in the manner of a B movie. The majority accepted it as an Adventure 
and a Romance, involving the Judge's daughter and one of her abductors. 
Only a few saw it as a personal tragedy and a social catastrophe, which 
it was. ' 

The romantic implications were based on Miss McElroy's successful 
efforts to save the leader of the kidnap band from hanging and on her 
frequent visits to prison to call on three of the men who held her captive 
for thirty hours on May 27 and 28, 1933. Inevitably the popular mind 
concluded that this interest betokened Love and this legend persisted 
until it was included in a book which appeared in 1945 under the name 
of Alan Hynd. That volume, entitled The Giant Killers, contained .a 
collection of stories on the exploits of the intelligence men of the Treas- 
ury in running down criminals and corrupt politicians. The chapter on 
Kansas City, called "Dark Metropolis," carried a brief account of the 
McElroy kidnaping which was notable for the author's interpretation of 
the love motif. Mr. Hynd went the whole way, even quoting Miss McEl- 
roy in a theatrical speech to her father declaring her love for the fascinat- 
ing bandit chief. Since both of the McElroys were dead by this time, the 
reader must be grateful to Mr, Hynd for finally revealing a secret which 
the family divulged to no one else. 

Mary McElroy frankly discussed the love rumor with intimate friends, 
and always insisted it was preposterous. Her disclaimer is good enough 
for the writer of the present account, who has no disposition to settle the 
burning love question. 

In fairness to the romantic school of crime writers, it must be ad- 
mitted that the kidnaping was a very unorthodox operation. It had some 
of the aspects of a game and the victim and her captors established a 
spirit of camaraderie almost from the beginning. After her first moment 
of fright, Miss McElroy played her part in a lighthearted manner that 
disarmed the kidnapers and made them her partisans. There were four 
men in the gang but two of them remained in their hideaway while the 


actual abduction was managed by the others, Walter McGec and 
Clarence Stevens, who gained entrance to the home by posing as delivery- 
men with a package for Judge McElroy 's "little girl." They did not know 
that she was a big girl of twenty-five, and they hadn't planned to kidnap 
her until shortly before they invaded the home. Mary's brother, Henry, 
was originally their intended victim. They waited outside the home for 
him to appear. After a kmg watch, they concluded they had missed him 
and abruptly decided to take his sister instead, and supposed they were 
dealing with a child. 

McGee's deliveryman trick deceived the McElroy cook, Heda Christen- 
sen, into opening the front door for him. He produced a revolver, an- 
nounced his mission, and he and Stevens forced Heda Christensen to 
show them the way upstairs where Miss Elroy was taking a bath. She 
screamed after she first heard their command but quickly recovered 
her poise, put on her bath robe and opened the door to face the men 
calmly. She asked permission to dress in privacy and the kidnapers 
stood guard outside her room while she dressed in a becoming pink 
cotton frock, tan hose and white summer shoes* She put on a hat, picked 
up a pair of gloves and a purse containing seven dollars, and walked 
from the house with her strange escort. The kidnapers left a message for 
Judge McElroy with Heda Christensen, notifying him that they would 
get in touch with him by telephone to arrange ransom negotiations. 
Their price was sixty thousand dollars, later reduced to thirty thousand 

Seating Miss McElroy on the floor of the rear of their car, the kidnapers 
drove across the Kansas line to a hideout' near Shawnee, less than ten 
miles from the McElroy home, Mary was chained to the wall of the 
room in which she was held, with a handcuff on her left wrist. Then 
she began to get acquainted with the four men who kidnaped her Wal- 
ter McGee, twenty-eight years old, leader of the band, his younger 
brother, George McGee, Clarence Click and Clarence Stevens. She had 
talked with Walter McGee and Stevens on the drive to the hideout 
and she found herself among an attentive and talkative company in the 
house near Shawnee. They brought her clean sheets, an electric light and 
a radio. They apologized for the service and the food, whidx they brought 

PAY-OFF 345 

her on a large tray. Her prison was a basement garage in a small frame 

The men called her Mary and she noticed that they had good faces. 
They smoked cigarettes constantly and drank some in her presence, but 
their manner was deferential and friendly. 

"It would be foolish to say that I felt no fear at all," Mary explained 
after she was released. "At the same time I felt sure that any one of the 
four men I saw would have been ready to protect me against any other 
person or danger. It is because I know that and felt that they were not 
bad at heart that I would hate to see them sent to the penitentiary. I 
would fight to keep them from such a fate." 

Miss McElroy gave police and reporters a detailed account of her ex- 
perience, an account that is striking for its revelation of the affinity that 
immediately developed between the lonely girl from a sheltered home 
and four men at loose ends five people who found a common bond of 
sympathy in the oddity of their lives and this strange situation. 

"We talked a good deal," Mary explained. " 'I suppose you hate us,' said 
the dark one. I told him I felt no malice at all toward them, and under- 
stood perfectly how they felt. I really can see their side of it, you know, 
I even told them I might have done the same thing. 

"We talked about prison reform for one thing. One of them told me 
he was sorry he hadn't finished his medical course. I was sorry, too. 

"They told me they could recommend me as a kidnaping subject and 
before I left they asked me to suggest some prospects for kidnaping. 
They didn't say which they preferred, men or women. No, I didn't give 
them any." 

The men did some swaggering and boasting to show they were pro- 
fessionals, speaking of the Lindbergh kidnaping as a crank case. The 
gang leader, Walter McGee the one who was supposed to have made 
Miss McElroy's heart flutter impressed her more with his considerate 
manners than his swashbuckling charm. Time and circumstances did 
not permit him to exhibit the romantic attraction which is indicated in 
his police record. His divorced wife informed authorities that he had won 
her with his fierceness. When she resisted his advances, he seized her. 
and held a razor blade to her throat and she knew then that it was a case 
o true love. 


In her conversation and statements covering the experience, Mary 
referred oftener to George McGee than his dynamic brother. George was 
her guard in the room. She listened sympathetically to the tale of his 
interrupted medical studies and called him Doctor. 

The prisoner had trouble going to sleep in her dungeon. At midnight 
she sat on her cot listening to the radio which brought in the voice of a 
girl singing "The End of a Perfect Day/* That sweet elegy was followed 
by a new hit number, "You'll Never Get to Heaven That Way," repeated 
four times- 
She fell asleep at three o'clock in the morning and was awakened at 
nine o'clock and told to prepare for her release, which followed the pay- 
ment of thirty thousand dollars ransom* Mary was set free near the en- 
trance of the Milburn Golf Club early in the afternoon of Sunday. She 
waved goodbye to her friends of the strange Saturday adventure, then 
walked resolutely to the clubhouse where she identified herself and 
waited until her father and brother arrived in a motor car for her. 

The kidnapers, unaware that she had money in her purse, had given 
her one dollar to pay her way home. "I forgot to ask them for an address 
to send the change to," she quipped to a Star reporter who interviewed 
her at her home. A large crowd was waiting at the home, overflowing 
the yard, and her first comment upon her return was: "If the kidnaping 
brought all my friends together, it was worth the results." 

Three of the kidnapers were quickly rounded up in the furious hunt 
that followed. Clarence Stevens, who aided Walter McGee in the actual 
abduction and ransom collection, got away. Quick and hard justice was 
dealt out to the other three. A muffler was placed on Mary's pleas for the 
men and everything done to expedite the prosecution, for the organiza- 
tion, the state and the press were after blood. Judge McElroy overcame 
his daughter's resistance and she went obediently to the stand to tell her 
story quietly. She was a grave, hollow-eyed figure in the courtroom, a 
young woman obviously working under a great strain to do what had 
been impressed up^n her as her duty. 

Clarence Click, on whose farm she was held a prisoner, was given an 
eight-year sentence, George McGee, the dark one who wanted to be a 
doctor, drew a life term in prison. Walter McGee, the dariag and con- 

PAY-OFF 347 

siderate one, was sentenced to death. It was the first time that this ex- 
treme penalty had been assessed for kidnaping in the United States. 

The Judge took Mary on a trip to the West Coast for a vacation and 
returned with the report that she was greatly improved by the change of 
scenery. He took her to Europe and they had a grand time together. In 
Rome, the City Manager complained to the authorities about the racket 
made by horn-tooting motor car drivers and Mussolini's celebrated decree 
against careless or excessive honking was said to have resulted from the 
McElroy protest. In Ireland, where he visited the home scenes of his 
parents, the Judge told De Valera how he ran American municipal gov- 
ernment efficiently. In Dublin, he and Mary were guests at a ceremony 
arranged by the Lord Mayor. They returned looking refreshed. Mary 
wore a black shirt and gave the Fascist salute. 

At home, other diversions and more trips were arranged for Mary, but 
she fell into dark moods that alarmed her father. He complained bitterly 
that the kidnaping had ruined her health but it wasn't her treatment 
at the hands of the bandits that troubled her. She visited the condemned 
men in their cells and returned to her father in agitation over the course 
that the law had taken. When the sentence was upheld in the Supreme 
Court and the time for Walter McGee's execution approached, her brood- 
ing became more intense and brought her to open revolt against the 

She disappeared from her home the night of February 10, 1935, im- 
mediately after telling her father good night. She was missed fifteen 
minutes later but was not found until shortly before noon the next day, 
when she was taken from a bus at Normal, Illinois. She had boarded a 
bus at Kansas City with a ticket, twenty cents and a tin of cigarettes, 
wearing a long fur coat, a smart black hat, gray blouse and long black 
skirt. She was traced from Springfield, Illinois, where she sent a tele- 
gram to her father, saying: "Sorry, but am so frightened. Don't know 
what I am doing." 

Mary returned to Kansas City by plane, accompanied by an uncle. 
One of her companions in the plane was Conwell Carlson, a Star reporter 
and a personal friend of Miss McElroy's, She talked to him as an old and 
trusted acquaintance and the story he wrote of their conversation in the 


clouds was the most moving and illuminating piece of reporting on the 
McElroy affair in this period* 

Why had she made this wild flight? 

"To get away," she said. "Not to have to see people and face people 
who know me as the City Manager's daughter and the girl who was 
kidnaped by a man who now faces a death sentence, and by two other 
men sentenced to prison. I guess that was the reason, or at least part of 
the reason. Did you ever feel as if you just couldn't stand it a minute 
longer and must do something or go somewhere?" 

Mary talked for a few moments with interest about her trip to Europe 
the previous fall with her father, and the places and things she enjoyed 
seeing in Italy and England. Yes, that was nice, she told Carlson. She 
could forget a lot of things there for a while, for a few hours or days. But 
then the old thoughts came back* 

"It was my testimony," she said, "that convicted those men. It was the 
right thing to do. Their sentences were just and I still believe capital pun- 
ishment is merited for kidnaping as well as murder. Yet I came to know 
the McGee brothers and Clarence Click in a sort of way. We talked and 
kidded together when I was held prisoner. I decided to deal with the 
situation realistically, then make the best I could of it. I hold no per- 
sonal hard feelings against them, and I am sure today that they do not 
hold hard feelings against me. That's what makes the situation all the 
worse, I have nightmares about those men and the fates they brought on 
themselves. I was a part of the drama that fixed their destiny." 

She was silent a moment and hesitated before answering the next 

"Have I seen them since the trials? Do I try to forget them? Yes, I 
have seen them, and no, I cannot forget them. I have visited all of them in 
person. I have tried to help their relatives. Something drives me to do 
this. I cannot let them go." 

Describing the scene in the plane, Carlson wrote that Miss McElroy 
turned to look out the plane window, watching the first star appear in 
die sky that was so blue and cold above the fleecy carpet of clouds. "This 
wa$ fairyland up here. Yet Mary was curiously unmoved by it. Her 
thoughts were still on the men in the cclfa." 

PAY-OFF 349 

Miss McElroy lighted a cigarette, took a few puffs, smiled wanly, and 

"We seem to want to live our own lives. Why should I feel boxed up 
and so useless when there are so many things I might do? I want to be 
just Mary McElroy, an ordinary girl, and yet here I am attracting more 
attention to myself by a foolish stunt like this. 

"I can't get away from a feeling for the underdog. Did you know that 
George McGee is taking a high school correspondence course in prison? 
He's a hotheaded boy but he wasn't the leader of the kidnapers. He once 
hoped to study medicine, he told me. There was a time, a short time, in 
Leavenworth, when George was on top. He lived there, you know, but 
now the poor fellow is way at the bottom of the heap." 

When Mary alighted from the plane, pallid and weary, she saw her 
father and walked quickly to him. They were both under restraint. "Did 
you have a good flight?" he asked. "Oke doke," said Mary. 

The Judge surrendered then. Two months later he went with Mary to 
Jefferson City to ask that the life of Walter McGee be spared. The Judge 
and his daughter were guests of Governor Park at luncheon in the execu- 
tive mansion. McElroy told the Governor that he believed the law had 
been vindicated and the execution of McGee would cause Mary more 
suffering. Miss McElroy stated the case more eloquently in her formal 

"In pleading for Walter McGee's life, I am pleading for rny own peace 
of mind," her statement said. 

"Through punishing a guilty man, his victim will be made to suffer 
equally. He would even have this advantage: He would not have to think 
about his execution afterwards. 

"I do not forget the suffering this has brought in many ways to many 
people. Walter McGee's death will not erase nor ease the suffering. 
Rather, I believe the mercy shown him, and the feeling of warmth and 
hope any act of mercy brings, will serve as a balm to us all." 

Miss McElroy argued that McGee's trial was "primarily important as 
a test case," in which "the State of Missouri was trying to prove the pos- 
sibility of giving the death sentence for kidnaping. The sentence passed 
by the jury has been confirmed by the Supreme Court. I believe that the 
full force of the law has been emphasized and that it is clear that Walter 

35 o TOM'S TOWN 

McGee has no legal means of escaping the gallows. I hope and believe 
that this has served to warn men like him that kidnaping is a serious and 
dangerous crime to contemplate." 

Governor Park commuted the sentence to life in prison with the 
declaration that justice should be equal, a principle that had carried less 
weight with the politicians a few years earlier when Rabbi Mayerberg 
tried to save the life of Joe Hershon. 

Miss McElroy recovered rapidly in both health and spirits, though she 
was a much more serious young woman than she had been before. She 
set herself to the task of working for the welfare of her friends in prison, 
visiting them, sending them gifts, arranging correspondence school 
studies for them, and planning for the job that Clarence Click would 
get when he left prison. She did this unostentatiously, trying to avoid at- 
tention, but not going aboutit secretly or apologetically. Once when a re- 
porter questioned her about this work, she said: 

"I am not trying to be benevolent. That's such a lofty word. Anyway, 
it doesn't fit at all. In fact, I am not sure exactly what I arn trying to do. 
I only know I want to help those McGee boys find themselves." 

Mary's interest in reform did not extend beyond her efforts to improve 
the convicts' minds and their opinions of society. Friends who discussed 
politics with her found her very emphatic in rejecting the suggestion 
that she entertained any serious criticism of the existing political system 
and social order. She was thoroughly versed in the conventional argu- 
ment of the organization and she was a good talker, speaking with the 
Judge's bluntness and some of his wit. She seemed to have no doubts 
that the boss system was inevitable and the best thing all around, men 
and institutions being what they were. If Pendergast didn't exist, some 
other boss would be in his place, perhaps a much less efficient boss than 

It all seemed very simple to her, yet she was deeply troubled and she 
grew increasingly sensitive to the criticism heaped on her father. Al- 
though she effected casualness in discussing the evils of machine govern- 
ment, admitting that many things were wrong, she. called them neces- 
sary evils and became very vigorous in her answers if anyone indicated 
any reservations on her father's personal integrity. Her three articles of 

PAY-OFF 351 

faith were the Old Boy's honesty, efficiency and vision. She regarded all 
the building achievements in the Ten-Year-Bond Program as his par- 
ticular feats. The massive six-million-dollar Municipal Auditorium was 
his monument for the ages. 

^Mary grew enthusiastic in discussing her father's work to bring the 
air age to Kansas City and she herself took a hand in the work of making 
the town air-minded in the period when the municipal air terminal was 
being developed at Kawsmouth. Some aviation experts complained that 
the airport site, in the great bend of the Big Muddy where it has its con- 
fluence with Kaw, was inadequate as to size and exposed pilots to un- 
necessary hazards of wind currents and fogs. Other critics protested at 
the price paid for the land. McElroy ignored all opposition and bulled it 
through. Perhaps the critics were right but at least two classes of citizens 
travelers and rubbernecks benefited from the McElroy vision or ob- 
stinacy. The site he selected places the arriving or departing air passenger 
within five minutes' ride from the heart of downtown Kansas City. It 
gives loafers and kibitzers of Kansas City a magnificent daily spectacle 
to watch. 

The best place to watch the airport, and the whole West Bottoms 
show for that matter, is from the crest of West Bluff, or Quality Hill. 
Here too the McElroy enterprise is in evidence. One of the last things he 
did was to arrange for a lookout point, with parking accommodations 
for numerous cars and a parklike effect, at the highest point on Quality 
Hill. He was not able to accomplish this without exhibiting some more 
of the old McElroy temper. He got in a quarrel with a woman who 
owned a home on the lookout site. She said it was worth more than five . 
thousand dollars and Mac said he wouldn't pay much more than one 
thousand dollars, for-values on Quality Hill have been sadly reduced in 
the thirty years since Kansas City quality moved out south, leaving their 
fine old red-brick houses to be occupied by a new class of people who are 
accustomed to living with decay and ghosts. The quarrel over the house 
went on for some time, holding up the project, until one day the owner 
happened by and found the house was gone. It vanished just like that, 
and no one knew where or why. Just another mystery of the machine 

However the injured house owner may feel about it, the sitters and 


watchers get a lot of pleasure out of the civic improvement on her lot. 
From the lookout they see one of the finest views of the might of in- 
dustrial America offered anywhere in the land. Judge McElroy had a 
particular feeling for this scene, which may explain his im patience with 
the lady with the house and lot. It is said that he decided to make Kansas 
City his home after sampling the view from Quality Hil 1 , for it com- 
bines industrial and pastoral effects to a rare degree, /to appeal to 
any man who likes both land and machines. The construction of the 
airport in the Missouri bend on the North Kansas City skl^ of the river 
unquestionably added something to the view from the bluffs, where 
people have been sitting for a century watching a large part of the his- 
tory of the West roll by. 

Mary had numerous instances like the airport deal to justify her faith 
in her father as a doer, a builder, who resorted to ruthless tactics to get 
things done for the town he loved. She completely accepted his business- 
man's creed as the only realistic one for the time and place she was a 
great realist, as were all the people she knew and respected. Her ather's 
idea of social usefulness was having something to sell. His job was selling 
boss government and, in his daughter's opinion, the results justified the 
means. She gloried in the fact that he operated openly for the organiza- 
tion. He was no hypocrite. 

Not in so many words / but in essence, Mary said that the town was 
corrupt, the machine vicious, everybody was on the make, life was mean 
but the Old Boy was as straight as a string the only good man in a lousy 

Her sympathies were plainly with the oppressed and the misfit, but 
she believed that the only practical way to help was through individual 
kindness. She continued her work for the three men in prison in the few 
years that remained of the McElroy regime after Walter McGee's life was 
saved. This interest could not completely occupy her and she filled in the 
time with civic activities, with work for the Philharmonic orchestra and 
social doings. She attempted to join in the standard pleasures of the 
period, going to cocktail parties, being seen in the night spots. She was 
a solemn, detached figure in the crowds except in rare intervals o anima- 
tion. She narrowed the circle of her intimates. She was seen frequently 
with a male escort but seemed to be avoiding the company of women* 

PAY-OFF 353 

She had entered spinsterhood and there was no one man for her. 

When the crash came and the Judge went home to die, Mary was his 
nurse and constant companion. She politely but firmly turned away of- 
ficials and newspapermen who wanted to bother him about records and 
city affairs. She was seen outside the house infrequently. A month before 
the Judge died, when the recall movement was gathering momentum, a 
practical joker called at the McElroy home with a recall petition and 
asked Mary to sign it. She invited him in, explained that she believed the 
people were entitled to express their preference in this way, and signed 
the paper. 

After her father died, she took a trip to the South for rest and sunshine. 
When she returned she looked tanned and fit but found loneliness and 
unhappiness waiting for her. She seldom left the house except for er- 
rands and for brief appearances among her father's old friends, when she 
tried to show that she was not impressed or disturbed by the disclosures 
that impeached the integrity of the Old Boy. Neighbors who caught 
glimpses of her were startled by the misery in her face and eyes. 

In January, 1940, she made an effort to shake off her depression. On 
Saturday, January 20, she decided to have a few friends in for the evening. 
The ones she called had made other arrangements and expressed their 
regrets, Mary decided to have her party alone. She fixed herself a drink 
and some food and sat down in the sunroom to read. It was a cold night, 
with a moaning north wind bringing two below zero. Some time in the 
early morning watch Mary got a pistol and shot herself. There was no 
one else in the house except the maid, and Mary's body was not found 
until late Sunday morning. The news of her death overshadowed for a 
day the accounts of trials for various figures in the boss regime and 
reports of progress in the campaign for the charter amendment election 
three weeks away. 

Perhaps no one knew more of the sickness and hollowness of her time, 
and no one uttered a more anguished protest than the one contained in 
this brief note she left: 

My four kidnapers are probably the only people on earth who don't consider 
me an utter fool. 
You have your death penalty now so please give them a chance. 

MARY McEuioY. 



SINCE the Tom story entered its final period, various other types besides 
politicians have been competing for attention. Preachers, club ladies, 
businessmen, newspaper editors and collegians have stepped into the pic- 
ture for brief but sometimes important appearances. There were others 
representing different elements of the population. In fact, the agitation 
was so widespread and profound that it produced a new political con- 
sciousness in the whole population which may prove to be the most 
significant long-range result of the disturbances of the 1930'$. 

At intervals throughout this period, the citizens were reminded that 
the Kansas City storm was not entirely a local phenomenon but rather 
an acute manifestation of the universal disorder. They were, however, 
fairly successful in discouraging agitators who sought to interest them 
in broader reform than the suppression of Tom Pendergast. 

A notable illustration of the attitude toward radicals in Kansas City's 
upper circles was given in the case of Tom Benton, the celebrated mural- 
ist, whose demonstration that art constitutes a threat to social stability 
provided a long and exciting distraction in the final years of machine 
rule. Thomas Hart Benton, a native Missourian, came to Kansas City to 
make his home in 1935, after many years of wandering, including long 
stays on the Left Bank of Paris and in New York's Greenwich Village. 
He had associated with almost every known variety of revolutionary, 
and although he quarreled bitterly with Communists, he boldly identi- 
fied himself as a collectivist just before leaving New York to get ac- 
quainted with the rugged individualists of the Kansas City Chamber of 

Mr. Benton came to Kansas City to be head of the painting department 
in the Kansas City Art Institute but he left the East partly because of a 
political objection and returned to his home state with a political hope. 
In an interview in St. Louis, on his way west, he said : 

"I'm sick of New York. It's full of talking, radical intellectuals/ I say 
talking because they never do anything else, This part of the country is 
going to dominate the coming social change and I desire to be here to 
see what happens, not just to hear about it. The Middle West is going to 

PAY-OFF 355 

dominate because you've got the manpower, the votes and you raise the 
groceries for the remainder of the country." 

Mr. Benton, son of a Missouri Democrat who had served in Congress, 
obviously was eager for political action and he got it in the next two 
years with the magnificent mural he painted on the walls of the Mis- 
souri Capitol in Jefferson City, a commission for which the Democratic- 
controlled General Assembly appropriated sixteen thousand dollars in an 
unguarded moment. 

The artist at this time was in his late forties, a pint-sized figure with a 
large head, tousled hair, a weathered, seamed face that was shaped for 
ribald laughter, and a squirrel-hunter's eyes. He had the spirit if not the 
bulk of his illustrious grand-uncle and namesake, Missouri's first senator. 
There is a legend that the Senator kept himself in fighting trim by 
having his Negro servant curry or rub him down with a horse brush 
every morning, and he stirred things up for a half-century and more 
with his duels and debates. Artist Benton played the harmonica and 
smiled often, but he agitated the Missourians with his brush, his pen 
ancLhis voic^for hg b^j talent as a writer as wellas a) ____ 

i On the walls of the Missouri Capitol, in vivid colors, remarkable tech- 
fnical detail and dynamic form, he painted the whole Missouri story as 
it had never been presented before. Here was the Missouri of Daniel 
Boone, the pony express, prairie schooner, stage coach and steamboat, ef 
the turkey shoot and the courthouse square, of prairie and woodland. 
/This was the Missouri of Mark Twain and Tom Pendergast, the border 
jstate, Mother of the West, scene of constant commotion, strife and much 
misery along with the adventure. Here were Huck Finn, Nigger Jim, 
Jesse James and his boys in a train robbery, a plantation overseer whip- 
ping a slave, an Indian being rooked by a white trader, brother mur- 
derously pursuing brother in the border wars, the Mormons being driven 
from Independence with fire and club by their intolerant neighbors. And 
here was the Missouri of the cities, the brothels and the honky-tonks, 
Frankie and Johnny, the industrial smokes rising from the Bottoms, the 
hardf aced tradesmen, the figure of Boss Pendergast, in the foreground, 
seated in a chair on a platform and next to him the rump of a prominent 
local Babbitt. 

The guardians of the sacred fiction that everything is lovely under the 


established order traveled to the Capitol, took one look at the mural and 
left in shudders. Former Senator James A. Reed gave it a hurried ex- 
amination and said: "Now I am going home and pray for the soul of 
Michelangelo." A demand arose that the mural be obliterated and Tom 
Benton be fired from his post in the Art Institute. The fight reached its 
height in Kansas City with a cleaning and dyeing man and a realtor, 
Thomas Dods and Howard Huselton, leading, the opposition. These 
veterans of the stereopticon school of art carried their campaign before 
businessmen's associations, and Benton personally entered the argument, 
making a forceful statement for an art that portrayed the true and im- 
portant facts of life regardless of their effect on the political thinking of 
the people. He did not bother to defend himself against the charge that 
he was lacking in Missouri patriotism. He asserted that he had a large 
interest but no vainglory in his native state. Asked to explain why he 
painted Jesse James rather than General Pershing, both native Mis- 

"In the development of Missouri, General Pershmg was not as im- 
portant as an ordinary old bucksaw and my granduncle, Senator Benton, 
was of less importance than a common Missouri mule." 

Fresh fuel was added to the controversy after Realtor Huselton read 
Beaton's newly published autobiography, An Artist in America. Wield- 
ing a red pencil, Huselton underlined passages in the book which he 
denounced as "sensual, gross, profane and vulgar," and this narrow 
view of a rich piece of literature found wide support. The Art Institute 
Board seriously considered Huselton's demand that it refuse to renew 
Benton's contract in 1938, an action that was announced in the press but 
later reversed. 

But Tom Benton continued to irritate the important people with his 
paintings, his talk and his ideas. His "Susanna and The Elders," ac- 
dgimed by art critics, brought an outcry from the opponents of nudity. 
South side tempers were ruffled by an incident at a Beaux Arts Ball 
sponsored by the Institute, when Benton and two of his noted com- 
patriots, Grant Wood of Iowa and John Steuart Curry of Ka'nsas, were 
named as judges to select the prize-winning costupes. Under Tom's 
guidance, they offended the dowagers* sense of pure art by awarding the 
women's first prize to a harem dancer in a few green beads and the men's 

PAY-OFF 357 

first prize a case of whisky to a guy dressed in the lower half of a pair 
of pajamas, representing a eunuch. 

Benton brought the fight on himself to a head in 1941 with his agitation 
against what he called the conventional or effete administration of art 
museums. He provoked a crisis on a visit to New York City, when he 
aired his views over a bottle while surrounded by appreciative newspaper- 
men. They quoted him in interviews which provoked angry sounds 
back in Kansas City. Mr. Benton declared he was opposed to art muse- 
ums and wanted to sell his stuff to "saloons, bawdy houses, Kiwanis and 
Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce even women's clubs." He 
described a typical museum as a graveyard run by "a pretty boy with 
delicate wrists and a swing in his gait." The Art Institute Board decided 
he had overstepped the bounds of propriety, Tom lost his job and his 
students picketed in futile protest. He decided to Stay on in Kansas City 
but the citizens thereafter heard little from him, and their conservative 
leaders encouraged them to forget that one of the nation's foremost artists 
and clearest social minds resided in their midst. 

Another interesting disturber of the public peace in this period was 
Dr. Logan Clendening, who represented both the medical and literary 
professions. Unlike Artist Benton, he was not an agitator by nature and 
he was drawn into the political struggle against his will, performing 
in a fashion that made the Clendening affair a semicomical or poignant 
matter. However, the incident was important, as it revealed the depth 
of the disturbance among people who had long supposed that they had 
nothing to do with politics and it actually served as the tip-off of the cam- 
paign which reached its climax in 1940 with the downing of the Demo- 
cratic organization, 

Dr. Clendening, Kansas City's famous columnist doctor, was a man 
of civilized pursuits, opposed to athletics, politics and anything else that 
interfered with eating, drinking and laughter. After writing his popular 
book, The Human Body, he kept up literary labor in a syndicated column 
for newspapers while continuing his work as a teacher in the University 
of Kansas Medical School. As a columnist, Dr, Clendening was primarily 
concerned with man's wonderful capacity to enjoy good food, and he de- 
voted more attention to the nuances of the burp and the marvels of the 
alimentary canal than he did to the latest medical discoveries. He was 

35 8 TOM'S TOWN 

chary with advice on how people should regulate their lives, and his only 
crusading was done against the American sport of football. 

To a rare degree, Logan Clendening exemplified the common and 
soundly based notion that political activities and interests were unnatural 
and degrading tendencies. He lived among the rich Republicans on the 
South Side, but his was a free spirit and a bold mind, and he thought 
that by standing aloof he could do his bit to discourage the whole miser- 
able enterprise of organizing humanity into factions, parties, blocs and 
denominations. But the political interference pursued him with relent- 
less logic and finally set up a stand outside the window of his large home 
at Fifty-sixth Street and State Line. It broke in upon his studies in the 
form of the State Line sewer project which City Manager McElroy had 
ordered over the protests of the homeowners and without formal Council 
authorization. For four months the WPA workmen had been engaged 
in this project, tearing up the pavement and boring in the earth with 
drills. For days Dr. Clendening listened to the clatter of the air compres- 
sor operating the drill outside his home. The machine became a hammer 
beating on his mind, giving him no peace from the political problem. 

Dr. Clendening's irritation over the drill was no exceptional thing and 
the issue it represented was no small matter. It was an incident in a 
struggle that had beeo-going on several years between the South Side 
and the McElroy administration. Considerable commotion had been 
created earlier by the Brush Creek and Brookside sewer projects, which 
South Siders protested as being unnecessarily elaborate and expensive, 
and declared they were designed primarily to make profitable business 
for Pendergast concrete and the Boss's contractor associates, Boyle and 
Pryor. This difference produced a personal feud betweenJ^^ 
and Jesse Clyde Nichols^champion of die South Side and builder of i 
^*dal districtTThe crusty JudgelEf eatened tc * ^ 
viaduct over the Country Club Plaza to spite Mr. Nichols and for a time 
the quarrel was diverting to the onlookers, for the common man found 
it difficult to choose between Judge McEIrpy and J. C. Nichols, and many 
did not realize the deep significance of this struggle. 

The contest reached a crisis over the State Line sewer in February, 
1939, when Dr. Cleadeaing decided he could stand the drill no longer 
He called City Manager McElroy and the Pryor Construction Comjpanj 

PAY-OFF 353 

to protest. Denied relief in these quarters, he walked a long block to the 
home of Boss Pendergast and spent a half -hour on the steps and the 
ground o the home vainly trying to attract attention. By this time he 
was ready for more direct action, moving with the speed and in the same 
mood of another victim of machine oppression who had created a furor at 
the City Hall some time before this. That other agitator was the wife of 
a city fireman, who called on Judge McElroy to protest his actions in 
cutting the wages and breaking up the union of the firemen. Armed with 
a leather whip, she was swinging lustily on the Judge when his attendants 
went to the rescue. They attempted to explain the woman's action by 
charging that she was intoxicated, and she admitted that she had had a 
nickel beer, which was all she could afford on her husband's salary of $67 
a month. 

Fortified with something better than beer, Dr. Clendening obtained an 
ax, concealed it under his coat and started toward the offending air 
compressor. The WPA workmen paused to watch the agitated ap- 
proach of his portly figure, attired in a dark suit with a flower in lapel 
and wearing a Homburg. While the startled workmen looked on, Dr. 
Clendening silenced the drill with lusty blows of his ax. He was booked 
at a police station for intoxication, destruction of federal property and 
disturbing the peace. He amused himself in a cell for four hours, singing 
songs, reciting from Shakespeare and behaving like the Pickwickian 
that he was. Released on bond, he later paid a fifty dollar fine on two 
counts and the intoxication charge was dropped. 

Of all the blows struck by an individual against political oppression in 
this time, the Clendening protest was by all odds the most disquieting. 
In the revolt that became general several weeks after the doctor staged 
his march, the State Line sewer was closed down for good, along with a 
lot of other things. Dr. Clendening found that he had made himself a 
hero of the reform, but he wanted no more of the political life, and re- 
tired to the background while the conflict rgn its course. In the intolerable 
days of the global struggle he declined in health and spirits until he came 
upon complete despair, when he removed himself from this politicians* 
world by committing suicide. 

la the campaigns of February and April, 1940, which ousted the Demo- 
crats and brought in the Nonpartisan regime, the South Side realized its 


supreme political moment. This was a victory in which the whole city 
participated but the leadership, the passion, the spade work and the big 
majorities came principally from the Eighth Ward, the section where the 
economically and socially important people were concentrated^ ^ 

The actual management was handled through the Star and the busi- 
nessmen. The paper had established itself as the organ or the antimachine 
movement by its action in the Mayerberg, New Youth, Fusion and 
Coalition struggles of 1932, '34 and '36. It was in the position and it had 
. the initiative to fill the vacuum created by the fall of Pendergast in April 
iof nineteen hundred ajxd thirty-ninejta two editorials published in that 
mtStE^^tltle^Forward Kansas City" and "Opportunity," the Star pro- 
vided the name and the idea for the organization that actually ruled 
Kansas City in the brief Smith interim period. That was followed quick- 
ly by the formation of the Forward Kansas City Committee under the 
leadership of R. J. DeMotte, president of the Chamber of Commerce; 
Vincent O'Flaherty, Jr., president of the Real Estate Board; W. T. Grant, 
insurance executive, and J. W. Perry, a retired banker. The Star had 
called for a businessman's organization to guide Mayor Smith and the 
council in this emergency and, with the old bosses on the run, the execu- 
tives hurried to take over all the key spots. The Executive Committee of 
the Forwards was composed of Perry and Grant, Republicans, O'Fla- 
herty, Robert L. Mehornay and Robert B. Caldwell, Democrats. Banker 
Perry was made chairman. 

The size of the businessmen's revolt was shown when the Forward 
Committee expanded its membership to 339, its list being a roster of 
financially important names, both Republican and Democratic. 

Conspicuously missing from the list of Forward subcommittees was 
one for labor. 

There was such an amplitude of opposition by this time that the For- 
wards faced a large problem in amalgamating the various groups. In ad- 
dStion to the businessmen's own committee, these included the Repub- 
lican organization, two independent Democratic outfits, the Ministerial 
Alliance and the Charter Party, headed by Hal W. Luhnow, director of 
the enterprises owned by the city's leading philanthropist, WiUiamybl- 
Irar, They were ail brought together, under the name of die UniteoCam- 

S.I.Ray in The Kansas City Star 

Only the First Round 

Celebrating the results of the Charter Amendment election of February 13, I94<V 
which foretold the, cleanup victory of April 2, 


paign, for the charter amendment election in February and the election 
of new city officers in April. 

The Democratic organization made only a modest effort to defeat the 
charter amendment, which cut the councilmen's terms from four to two 
years and thus served the purpose of a recall by bringing the next elec- 
tion in April. The boys at the City Hall had shown immense resource- 
fulness in blocking the original recall petitions, employing such devices 
as having councilmen resign and appointing successors who, under the 
law, weren't subject to recall for six months. Recall petitions mysteriously 
disappeared at the City Hall and other things happened to them. When 
the recallers wearied of this contest and turned to the charter amendment 
device, the Democrats contented themselves with offering four other 
amendments to confuse the voters. The citizens were not misled, voting 
95>683 to 17,316 for Amendment No. i and rejecting the others. 

Squaring away for the final test, the United Campaign people named a 
ticket composed of five Democrats and four Republicans for the Council 
places, headed by John B. Gage, Democratic lawyer and cattle raiser, 
who served as mayor of Kansas City for three successive terms. Among 
the successful Council candidates was Joseph C. Fennelly, leader of 
N.YJvL in the 1934 battle. This bipartisan group took its stand on a non- 
partisan platform, a point of higher strategy and political philosophy 
which has been fiercely debated for six years. There are many arguments 
for the nonpartisan approach, but the only practical one seems to be that 
it provides a cloak for the bipartisan character of the ticket, divesting the 
candidates of their proper party labels and confusing some voters as to 
how many Republicans are on the ticket. Under this device, the Re- 
publicans have regularly taken four out of nine places, which may be 
more than they would get under honest proportional representation 
based 0n actual voting strength if the situation were one that permitted a 
straight test between the two major parties, which it isn't, In other words, 
a way had to be found to weld the rump Democrats and the Republicans 
IE the only combination that seemed capable of challenging the Demo- 
cratic organization, and the nonpartisan fiction effectively served that 
fmrpo$e, but it took a powerful lot of propaganda from the Star to make it 

The regular Democrats used the nonpartisan trick as one of their chid 

PAY-OFF 363 

talking points in the 1940 campaign, warning that nothing but trouble 
would come from "the political monstrosity of nonpartisanship ... a 
political will-o'-the-wisp, which in the past had led only to political ex- 

For their main argument, the assault on the Star, the Democrats called 
out their ablest orators, who warned that if this battle was lost, "then 
Democrats of this city must recognize that no Democrat can hereafter 
be elected to office without the apostolic blessing of the Kansas City Star? 
Women were reminded that if the Nonpartisans won, then none of their 
husbands could rise to office "without the benediction of the Kansas City 
Star! 9 

. Uncle Joe Shannon, in the tenth year of his service in Congress, re- 
turned from Washington to assist the salvaging eflfort, and the touch of 
his smooth hand was discernible in the strategy that followed. He did 
not, however, take a position up front in the speaking and he was a 
rather bemused figure in the midst of the storm. He looked in on some o 
the United Campaign rallies, watching, listening, smiling benevolently 

Congressman Shannon was particularly interested in the United Cam- 
paign's women, for they were the sensation of the election melodrama, 
introducing a refinement that was completely bewildering to veteran 
wardheelers. Among those responsible for this innovation was former 
Senator Reed, ex-champion of the Goats but a hero of the Republicans 
since his bolt from the Roosevelt ticket in 1936, which he repeated in 
1940. Appearing publicly at one of the Forward Kansas City Committee 
rallies, he drew cheers with a call for a cleanup and a suggestion that the 
women be given a large role in this campaign. Three women were ad- 
mitted to the inner council of the Forward Committee and the special 
division they organized for the campaign included an estimated six 
thousand ward and precinct workers. They adopted the broom as their 
symbol and wore it with great style. Their leaders were the darlings of 
the Star and the South Side. 

Heading the women's division was Mrs. George H. Gorton, credited 
by the Nonpartisans with being one of their foremost vote getters. Her 
main assistants were Mrs. Williston P. Munger, head of the finance 
committee, Mrs. Russell C. Comer, chairman of the Charter Party 


women, and Mrs. Louise Stewart, vice-chairman of the Republican 
County Committee, Mrs. Munger praised Mrs. Gorton for "her sure- 
footed wisdom and capacity for facing dark facts." Mrs. Gorton called 
Mrs. Comer "a lovable little dynamo" and praised all of her lieutenants. 
They were all extremely efficient and the men looked on in admiration 
mixed with some trepidation. 

Mrs. Gorton grew angry over a Democratic pamphlet libeling the 
United ladies as "pinknailed, cocktail-drinking, cigarette-smoking South 
Siders." She singled out Uncle Joe Shannon at a noonday rally in the 
women's headquarters to assure him that she was a true Democrat from 
Alabama* This Alabamy Democrat campaigned vigorously against 
Roosevelt in the fall of that same year but in April her nonpartisan ap- 
peal won thousands of votes, with her assistants manning 4,500 tele- 
phones and driving 5,000 motor cars to carry citizens to the polls. 

The returns showed 94,192 for John B. Gage for mayor, 74,033 for his 
Democratic rival, a majority of 20,159. The United ticket carried seven 
of the other eight Council places, the Democrats retaining control in 
the First District, the old river ward precincts where Alderman Jim 
Pendergast had started all this. 

The victory celebration reached its height in the women's headquarters^ 
where a crowd of 1,500 excited partisans were packed like sardines. A 
band struck up, "Happy Days Are Here Again," Somebody started a 
cakewalk and the throng joined in. 

Mrs. Gorton shouted to make herself heard above the clamor. 

"Tea?" she cried. **We aren't going to serve tea. It's going to be punch, 
fruit punch, with a brass band." 

Thus Good Government came to Kansas City. 


THE LORD works in mysterious ways and one of the larger reforms in 
Kansas City was well advanced even before Mayor Gage and his bipar- 
tisan Nonpartisans took over the City Hall. In fact, this particular clean- 
up was so far along that it had produced a major reaction, creating a crisis 
for the new administration in the first years of Nonpartisaa rule. 

PAY-OFF 365 

This political disturbance was the work o Lear B. Reed, G-man,^ 
Minute Man, author and hero of the book jfemswrW^^ 
police chief of Kansas City in July, 1939. Mr. Reed combined in his per- 
son the more formidable characteristics of Fearless Fosdick and Paul 
Revere, and he was equally energetic in efforts to save Kansas City from 
criminals and the nation from Reds, whom he regarded as much more 
of a threat to America than the British Redcoats ever were. 

A crusader of Chief Reed's range and temperament was bound to kick 
up a row in any community, but the situation in Kansas City was one 
that enabled him to get the maximum effect. He reformed, intimidated, 
irritated or angered so many different kinds of citizens that he distracted 
attention from other important phases of the new order in town* Besides 
suppressing criminals and scattering Reds, he antagonized workingmen 
and union officials, Negroes, liberals and a wide variety of ordinary indi- 
viduals who began to wonder if democracy could stand the strain of abso- 
lute rectitude. 

Chief Reed was drafted from the Federal Bureau of Investigation by 
the new Police Board that Governor Stark appointed at the end of Home 
Rule, and his particular sponsor was the Board chairman, Edgar Shook, 
lawyer and one of the South Side's early champions in tl\e fight on the 
Pendergast organization. Reed had served in the F.B J. fourteen years 
and was familiar with the Kansas City situation from many assignments 
in this area. 

When he became the Kansas City police chief he was thirty-nine years 
old, in the prime of phenomenal vigor. He wore eyeglasses which didn't 
make him look studious, for he had been a two-hundred-pound tackle at 
Richmond University and grew ,more athletic with age. A native of 
Georgia, he spoke with a Southern accent which didn't sound like a 
drawl. His heroes were J. Edgar Hoover and the F.B.I., to whom he de- 
voted a glowing chapter in Human Wolves, the breathless narrative of 
his adventures as G-man and police chief. When he was not preoccupied 
with the organizational details and laboratory work of modern scientific 
investigation, he was out in the field charging around in a manner, that 
would have impressed the Revolutionary hero who aroused the Minute 

Before his first month in office elapsed, Chief Reed staged his most 


spectacular performance in crime suppression. He summoned to his office 
Big Charley Carollo, the collector o the gambling syndicate, and en- 
forced the invitation with the kind of threat that Carollo understood* 
This unnaturalized Italian gangster was soon to be sentenced to Federal 
prison but before he departed he spent thirty minutes in the intimidating 
presence of Chief Reed. Carollo was informed that his days of dictating 
to the police were over. 

Whether Carollo was more discouraged by the Reed talk than the 
Federal sentences is a question that has never been settled but the avail- 
able evidence is that he was properly impressed with the f orcef ulness of 
the new chief. Lear Reed himself gave the press a dramatic account of 
his effect on the big gangster. He described how his powerful eyes bored 
in while he told Big Charley that he would engage a hundred ex-marines 
if necessary to work on the gangsters and that he would throw the entire 
mob into jail for twenty-four hours if they didn't show the right respect 
for cops. 

"If it's necessary to bring your kind in on a slab, that's the way we will 
do it," Chief Reed said that he said. 

Big Charley Carollo withdrew into the N6rth Side background until 
he left for prison, Chief Reed turned to other work and the Kansas 
City cleanup began to attract national attention, with Chief Reed serving 
as his most efficient press agent. He wrote chiefs in other cities telling 
them of the change in his territory. "The underworld here has been 
getting a cleanup the like of which it never dreamed/' he explained. 

The Reed crusade ran on for two years, giving conclusive proof of two 
important points: One, that police provide a higher degree of public 
safety when they are fighting against rather than working with the 
underworld. Two, it is impossible to deal adequately or permanently 
with the police problem by using authoritarian methods in an American 
community. The demonstration on the second point filled the Lear Reed 
episode with political controversy. Labor representatives and Negroes 
protested against some of the police methods. Reed's Red hunt provoked 
wide agitation. He set up a file of subversive activity reports and starred a 
campaign for the wholesale fingerprinting of private citizens. Labor 
unions stormed that their members and organizer^ were befog forced 
to give their prints in violation of their civil rights. They filed $w$$ and 

PAY-OFF 367 

called on the Police Board to stop the fingerprint practice. One of Reed's 
main supporters, the Star, warned that the crusade was going too far 
when the Chief ran a Communist speaker and his wife out of town, and 
again when Reed sought to organize a semi-military "civil defense** 
organization allied with the police* 

Chief Reed remained under fire from Kansas City's Negro com- 
munity, an agitation that extended over many months. The chief re- 
garded himself as a great friend of the colored man, remarking once that 
he knew precisely how Abraham Lincoln felt when he first saw the slaves 
on his trip down the Mississippi River. The Negroes were unable to see 
evidences of this attitude in the measures Reed's police took to keep order 
on Vine Street and in other parts of the Negro quarter. Their indignation 
flared high over the slaying of a colored man by a police officer in a night 
club and several other violent incidents. They carried their case to the 
Missouri governor, a Republican who had succeeded Lloyd Stark, list- 
ing eighteen instances of alleged police brutality against Negro citizens. 

It is possible that Reed might have weathered these storms, or at least 
have delayed his leave-taking, if he had not muffed the investigation of 
the principal crime that occurred in his two-year reign a murder mys- 
tery that involved one of the most gruesome crimes in Kansas City 
annals, and one that had sharp political repercussions. This was the slay- 
ing of Leila Welsh, twenty-four years old, granddaughter of a well-to-do 
pioneer Kansas City realtor, an heiress and a popular and attractive 
young woman who had been a beauty queen at the University of Kansas 
City a few years before her death. She was slain in her home in the dark 
hours of a Sunday morning in March, 1941, not long dfter she returned 
at 1 130 A.M. with her escort, Richard Funk, with whom she had been 
keeping company for five years. After bidding Funk goodnight, she 
stopped in the bedroom of her mother, Mrs. Marie Welsh, for a brief talk. 
Her brother, George Welsh, twenty-seven years old, was dozing on the 
davenport in the front room in their one-and-a-half -story bungalow at 
6109 Rockhill Road, and she passed him on the way to her rear bedroom. 
She was brutally murdered in bed not long after she retired, but her body 
was not discovered until after nine o'clock Sunday morning. Her mother 
told the police that she entered Miss Welsh's room to close the bedroom 
window which her daughter always left open at night, and had crossed 

3 68 TOM'S TOWN 

to the window before she noticed that anything was wrong. The brother, 
George, was not in the house then, having arisen earlier and gone to keep 
an appointment with people who were looking over a house for which he 
was agent. 

The city was terrorized by the ghastly nature of this murder in the 
center of one of the town's most respectable residential areas. Leila 
Welsh's head was bashed in with a hammer, her throat cut with a knife 
and a piece of flesh was cut from her hip- The missing piece was later 
found in the yard of a neighbor, where it was picked up by a dog. There 
was a confusing plenitude of clues inside the girl's room and outside 
the first floor window through which the killer apparently had entered. 
The knife, the hammer and a blood-stained pair of cotton gloves, among 
other things, were found- The knife was traced to the dealer who sold 
it and he described and identified the young man who bought it. The 
man who sold the hammer was found but his description of the buyer 
did not tally with the description of the knife purchaser except in one 
detail, and he was unable to identify the suspect picked out by the trades- 
man who sold the knife. Fingerprints were found on the windowsill of 
Leila's bedroom which matched the prints of George Welsh. He stoutly 
denied any knowledge of the crime and conducted himself coolly 
throughout the investigation. His mother expressed absolute confidence 
in him and all the evidence made public indicated that a bond of rare 
affection existed between brother and sister. 

Along with the bewildering array of clues, the police were bothered by 
the number of people who wanted to confess the murder but couldn't 
establish their claims, together with the advice of psychiatrists and a series 
of letters from cranks, including a thirty-seven-page "Complete Solution 
of the Welsh Case." Chief Reed took complete charge of the investigation 
and his performance was distinguished by his quarrels with the Demo- 
cratic sheriff and county prosecutor's office, who tried to horn in on the 
inquiry, and by his series of announcements that the mystery was about 
to be solved or was virtually solved. His most interesting contribution 
to public enlightenment was his discovery that the killer had spelled out 
an initial in blood on one of the victim's legs. The Chief regarded this 
as the murderer's calling card, marking him as an egotistical type, but the 
clue yielded nothing more than some fancy Hawkshaw speculation. 

PAY-OFF 369 

Partisan differences over the case continued for some tit$t after Reed 
quit as police chief, and the mysterv was hopeles c !j involved in the 
dispute. A grand jury called by Circuit Judge Marion D. Waltner in- 
dicted George Welsh for the murder and issued a sensational report 
on Reed's alleged conduct o the original investigation, charging, among 
other things, that the chief had positive identification of George as 
purchaser of the knife thirteen days after the crime. The indictment of 
Welsh was set aside by Circuit Judge Emory H. Wright, who upheld a 
defense plea in abatement and declared that the grand jury's actions in 
interviewing witnesses outside the jury room, employment of detec- 
tives and use of county funds by jurors in carrying on their investigation 
were violations of the statutes. Welsh later was brought to trial on a 
murder charge filed by the county's prosecuting attorney and was 
acquitted by the jury that tried him. 

Chief Reed resigned in August, 1941, to take a job in Chicago, stepping 
out of office at a moment when the sounds of derision from unregenerate 
Twelfth Street, the protests of Negro delegations to Jefferson City and 
criticism from other quarters were giving the Nonpartisan politicians 
chills over the future of the reform. 

After his departure, the Police Board picked as Reed's successor Harold 
Anderson, a Reed man who had exhibited an engaging personality and 
pleasant voice as leader of the police quartet. While the politicians 
watched to see if adequate law enforcement could not be had in a more 
routine manner, the citizens were permitted to look around and study 
some of the other things that the Nonpartisan reform was accomplishing. 


THE LADIES with the brooms, their leaders and admirers generated so 
much enthusiasm that six years later their movement was still going 
strong, at the end of which time they had triumphed over the Demo- 
cratic opposition in three more elections. So much attention has been 
attracted by the success of the Nonpartisans in municipal administration 
and political campaigning that insufficient notice has beea given to the 


comeback efforts o the Goats and the Rabbits under the command of 
the old bosses' successors, Jimmy Pcndergast and Frank Shannon. 

With Tom Pendergast forcibly restrained from participation in politics 
and Joe Shannon removed by his death in 1943, many observers pro- 
claimed that an era had ended and confidently looked for the speedy dis- 
appearance of the old Democratic factions as they existed and operated 
in the heyday of Tom and Joe. They were, in fact, demoralized, but the 
retreat was neither so extensive nor so fast as was generally supposed. 

However, the proclaimers of a new era had much more than the rout 
of the old organization to support them in the impression that the Kansas 
City reform was permanent. Changes that have been effected in these few 
years are so extensive that a whole book could very well be devoted to the 
new development. National attention has been called to tfie Nonpartisan 
experiment in newspapers and magazines during this period, but nothing 
like an adequate appraisal has yet been made. The change already has 
endured longer and accomplished more than any similar effort in the 
past. It is certain to have lasting effects and is likely to continue in its 
present form for some time, even though it is not yet clear that there will 
be no important political interruptions before the decade of 1940 runs out. 

One distinguishing feature of the Nonpartisan administration is that 
It is a businessman's government, just as surely as the McElroy regime 
was a businessman's government during a large part of that enterprise. 
This aspect of the Kansas City change is perhaps most striking when it 
is compared to earlier reform efforts. In his investigations of the battles 
against the great city machines of forty and fifty years ago, Lincoln 
Steflfens found that the do-gooders invariably encountered major re- 
sistance from the dominant economic interests, and that the machine in 
^act was the instrument of the business community, leading to the conclu- 
sion that private economic interests by their very nature required corrupt 
politics* Another Steffeas is needed to study the implications of the 
Kansas City crusade in which the economic powers took over the reform 
at dbe last and made it their own, doing the things that have made possi- 
ble its consolidation. 

On the score of administration the Nonpartisan scheme has thus far 
justified all the hopes of old Colonel Nelson, the Star editors* Walter 
Matsdieck and' others who campaigned so long for this innovation in 

PAY-OFF 37* 

municipal government. Achievements to date have been confined mostly 
to improvement in the routine services, but there has been a gain all 
along the line, a change that has been large in some departments such 
as financial management, personnel and social welfare and recreation. 
Along with a broadening conception of the government's functions in a 
modern city there has been elaborate planning for well-rounded develop- 
ment of the civic plant. The war interrupted construction, but the city 
now is on the threshold of the greatest civic undertaking in its history, 
combining a large public building program with extension in regular city 
services. How well this is promoted and carried out by the present occu- 
pants of the City Hall will have a large bearing on the length of their 

Whatever comes, even if the Nonpartisans should be replaced at the 
next election in 1948, the city may count some permanent gain from the 
changes made and the new methods and techniques introduced. A new 
administration would be slow in abolishing many of the things that have 
brought so much luster to the Nonpartisans. That an important part of 
the business community will fight hard to prevent a change may be 
safely predicted on the basis of the dollars-and-cents record of the reform. 
Increased efficiency under the direction of City Manager L. P. Cooking- 
ham has enabled the administration to reduce the size of the payroll and 
effect other economies, to increase wages, to retire many of the obligations 
left by the last regime, to place the city on a sound financial basis^ to cut 
the tax rate on real and personal property and lower real estate tax 
valuations by $30,000,000, and to create a large surplus. The change in 
the financial picture was humorously illustrated in the last campaign 
when the Democratic opposition had to make an issue over the surplus, 
accusing the city government of hoarding, a departure from the old cry 
over deficits which didn't make any votes for the outs. 

The present city administration closed the 1946 fiscal year with the 
statement that Kansas City was better off by $22,000,000 than it was six 
years ago. Among the achievements listed in the report were permanent 
improvements costing $9,125,527; a reduction of $6,322,054 in the bonded 
debt, payment of $1,982,749 on backpay claims and unpaid bills from, 
the previous administration and a cash surplus of $3*049,300. 


Unlike most past reforms, the Nonpartisan movement does not depend 
entirely on its record in office and its personalities to sustain it. It has no 
personalities like Golden Rule Jones of Toledo or Tom Johnson of Cleve- 
land. In place of strong individuals who dramatize the reform, the 
Nonpartisans have a political party, or rather an organization that 
possesses some of the features of a party. This is called the Citizens Party, 
and it represents the various groups that were combined in the United 
Campaign ticket in the 1940 battle that overthrew the Democratic or- 

The history of reform failure is written largely in terms of the inability 
of the uplif ters to form a real political organization or to seize control of 
one of the regular parties, so the Citizens Party may represent an im- 
portant forward step. For example, Mayor John B. Gage, who came in 
with the reform in 1940, was able to retire at the end of his third term 
without jeopardizing the popular appeal of the Citizens cause, which 
has been signally successful in not identifying itself with one individual. 
Gage's place was taken by William E. Kemp, former city counselor, who 
became the second Citizens mayor of Kansas City. 

It is difficult, however, to form a true political party that is confined to 
activity in the local field, and particularly one that is composed of such 
disparate elements as the Citizens attract. Internal differences, factional 
and partisan, keep it from going beyond the local level and create difficul- 
ties for it even in this restricted field. It is not a party but a campaign 
device that brings together the reform or independent Democrats and 
the Republicans, It is held together chiefly by the businessmen and the 
Star, and, of course, by the women with the brooms. So the Citizens 
Party is not without some substantial support despite its curious political 

This question is now the most important issue in the Kansas City re- 
form and before long there must be an answer, showing whether the 
Citizens Party has much of a future or whether there has been or is liable 
to be anything like a regeneration of either or both of the major parties. 
It may turn out that the Citizens Party and the nonpartisan approach 
are not an answer to the breakdown in the American political system In 
the city, but rather a stopgap, and also a symptom at the depth erf, the 

PAY-OFF 373 

political crisis. The Citizens Party has no traditions, no state or national 
connections and no social philosophy of the kind that gives life and sta- 
bility to a party. The Nonpartisan organization was brought into being, 
nourished and enabled to prevail by the corruption and demoralization 
of the real political parties. Under the American democratic order, the 
true remedy for the collapse of the political system lies in the reformation 
and rehabilitation of the Republican and Democratic parties. The non- 
partisan idea can be used to obstruct and delay the work of party re- 
vitalization, assuming that such a revival in the local field is either feasible 
or desired by the citizens at this late date. Thus far there has been no 
broadening of the base of political organization to give a larger voice to 
other elements of the population besides business, and the significant 
thing about all this is the small part the public actually plays in the selec- 
tion of candidates and the formulation o policy. 

Because the routine services do represent a large part of municipal 
administration, the idea grew up that city government is a business opera- 
tion, largely divorced from policy-making, legislation, social planning 
and political thinking. The experience of the Kansas City Nonpartisan 
venture is that the political element is still the chief factor, and will con- 
tinue to be as long as we have free elections and democratic forms. No 
reform will be safe for long unless it restores the health of the political 

While the Nonpartisan administration has flourished, the Citizens 
Party gives no indication of becoming anything more than a sterile 
hybrid. On the other hand, the regular Democrats gave vigorous signs 
of a revival after a couple of years, suggesting that Jimmy Pendergast 
and Frank Shannon inherited more political savvy than they were 
allowed in some circles. Jim seems to be a mild and cautious individual 
in comparison with his uncle and his father, the pugnacious Tom and 
Mike, and Frank is regarded as but a small chip off the old Joe Shan- 
non block. Both of the new factional leaders are lawyers. Both like to 
stay in the background but they have gradually been drawing more at- 

When the smoke cleared from the United Campaign battle of 1940, 
the Democrats had one Council seat in the City Hall, from the First 
District, and retained a hold on the Courthouse. The reformers at first 


made a spirited effort to change the order in the Courthouse and in the 
county Democratic organization. They made some gains with a new 
presiding judge, George S. Montgomery, and with the co-operation o 
Mayor Roger T. Sermon of Independence, personal friend of Harry 
Truman and leader of the Democratic faction of Eastern Jackson County. 
The offensive did not achieve its goal, however, and the failure was due 
to the fact that the Citizens Party could function only in city contests 
and the reform Democrats had no program, no ticket and no strong party 
leaders to rally the faithful in the county contests. 

Low point for the regular Democrats was reached in the city election 
of 1942, when the Citizens majority passed beyond thirty thousand and 
they again captured eight of the nine Council seats. It appeared then 
that the old organization might break up into various small factions, 
with Pendergast being eclipsed in importance by ward leaders who had 
acknowledged Uncle Tom's leadership but couldn't be held in line by 
Jim- The decline in relative voting strength was arrested by the Demo- 
crats in the city election of 1944, and in the August primaries of that 
year, the Pendergast leadership was reasserted in the county organiza- 
tion in the election of committeemen, as well as strengthened in the 
Courthouse through the selection of successful candidates for county 
offices* Jim Pendergast's prestige was further increased by the nomina- 
tion of a candidate for governor who had the indorsement of his faction 
and against whom the old boss-control issue was vigorously raised by the 
Star* In the primary he eliminated two rivals who were identified with 
the Kansas City and Jackson County anti-Pendergast offensive, Edgar 
Shook and Roger Sermon, and went on to win the final election. Things 
were looking up for the regulars. - 

The organization Democrats obviously were waiting for the Citizens 
amalgamation to fall apart, and they decided the time f or this had come 
in the spring of 1946. The result was the most spirited campaign since 
1940 Jn the last two city campaigns, the Democrats had been beaten each 
time by the same tactics that won for the coalition in 1940, with tne Star 
and the Nonpartisan orators fastening the machine label on the ogjx>si- 
tion. The Democratic leaders endeavored to overcome this handicap in 
1546 by employing a new method of naming the ticket. An advisory 

PAY-OFF 375 

committee of twenty-five was appointed, and it named a nominating 
committee of one hundred which conducted public hearings. This sub- 
terfuge did not long prevent the Star from crediting selection of the 
ticket to Pendergast and associates, and again working the old boss bogey 
to the limit. 

In retaliation for the plastering they got with the machine tag, the 
Democrats went all out with a parade of their favorite bogey domina- 
tion by the Star. Robert K. Ryland, the Democratic candidate for mayor, 
railed against the newspaper monopoly and oppression in a colorful man- 
ner that was reminiscent of Jim Reed in his early fighting days. He 
succeeded in reminding everyone that Kansas City now has but one 
daily newspaper, and convinced all who were not already convinced that 
the Star is the main force in the Citizens combination; but again a ma- 
jority decided that the Republican newspaper and the Nonpartisan will- 
o'-the-wisp produced the kind of government they wanted. However, 
the Democrats picked up one more Council seat, making it two to seven, 
and reduced the Citizens voting lead sharply outside the rock-ribbed 
Republican Eighth Ward. Showing the new trend, the Citizens majority 
of some twenty-four thousand in 1944 was cut to less than twelve thou- 
sand in 1946. The Citizens got 49,166 in the light vote in 1944 and 63,780 
in 1946; the Democrats polled only 25,135 for the head of their ticket in 
1944 but doubled the figure to deliver 51,906 in 1946. 

A stronger show of Pendergast power was made in the 1946 congres- 
sional primary, when Jim Pendergast complied with President Truman's 
publicly expressed request to "purge" Congressman Roger C. Slaughter, 
recalcitrant Democratic representative from the Missouri Fifth District. 
While this work was being done, Pendergast and his allies swept the 
field, nominating their candidates for county offices, winning firmer con- 
trol of the coiinty committee and temporarily burying Frank Shannon, 
the new Rabbit faction leader, who had backed Congressman Slaughter. 
Observers were startled at the size of the Democratic vote rolled up on 
the North Side, recalling the top-heavy majorities of Tom Pendergast's 

The fight gained momentum in the campaign for the November elec- 
tion, turning into something of a revival of forces and personalities that 


had figured conspicuously in earlier Kansas City politics. Albert L. 
Reeves, Jr., son of the Federal judge who had presided in many of the 
sensational court actions of the 1930'$, was nominated for Congress on 
the Republican ticket, and later elected in a campaign that was high- 
lighted by his verbal blasts against the "Pendergast machine." Another 
familiar name had reappeared in the primary when the Democratic 
congressional nomination was sought by Jerome Walsh, son of the late 
Frank P. Walsh, the party agitator of other days. Pursuing his father's 
liberal line, Jerome Walsh took a strong pro-Roosevelt stand and went 
down to defeat when the Truman-Pendergast support went to a third 
and less New Deal-ish man in the race, and the P.A.C. played along with 
the organization. 

Following the primary, the Star opened one of its heaviest antimachine 
offensives, conducting a private investigation of vote frauds in the recent 
primary that was even more elaborate than the newspaper's ghost hunt 
of 1936. This inquiry drew the attention of the Federal district attorney, 
and brought the F.B.I. and agents of a congressional committee into the 
field^The agitation grew with the formation of a Jackson County Com- 
mittee for Honest Elections, and with the return to action of Rabbi 
Samuel S. Mayerberg, leader of the Charter League crusade of 1932. A 
new element entered the conflict with the organization of a veterans' 
committee that did effective work for the Republicans. 

The general Republican trend of 1946 completed the work, and when 
the storm cleared, the Jackson County Democrats found they had lost a 
scat in Congress, two key posts in the Courthouse and a majority of the 
county delegation in the legislature. It was a severe jolt, and there was 
much speculative talk of a continued Democratic decline, with the out- 
look being made darker by the revival of Democratic factional warfare 
in the primary. However, the size of the Democratic vote and the num- 
ber of offices retained were impressive in comparison with Democratic 
performances elsewhere outside the Solid South, and in view of the 
many depressing factors besides the national G.O.P. trend. 

Meanwhile, business goes on at 1908 Main Street. Many things have 
changed in Kansas City, but the Goats and the Rabbits and .the Star have 
not yet ended their long contest and the road to reform still has many 
strange turns. 

PAY-OFF 377 


IN THE FALL of 1944, Tom Pendergast witnessed his last political cam- 
paign. He had been out of prison since late in May, 1940, after serving 
a year and a day of his fifteen-month sentence, but he was still not en- 
tirely a free man under the terms of the rigid five-year probation which 
Federal Judge Merrill E. Otis fixed for him. Until May, 1945, he was 
prohibited from engaging in any form of political activity, even from 
discussing politics or granting interviews. He was not permitted to 
go to his old headquarters at 1908 Main Street. And he was under 
strict orders to eschew all gambling interests. He reported regularly 
to a probation officer and moved in a limited circle between the office 
of the Ready-Mixed Concrete Company at Twenty-fifth and Summit 
streets and his modified Italian style mansion at 5650 Ward Parkway,, 
where he lived alone in three of the many rooms in that imposing three- 
story affair. Mrs. Pendergast moved away to an apartment in the Country 
Club Plaza, and while there was no divorce or legal separation the gossip 
was that she had left Uncle Tom because he had broken his promise to 
her to give up gambling before the crash in 1939. The retired Goat lead- 
er's loneliness was broken by visits from his children and a few cronies, 
and his only amusements were reminiscing, taking motor car rides and 
watching the trains go by his office adjoining the Union terminal yards. 

Rumors that Pendergast was eager to return to political life were preva- 
lent throughout this period and in 1943 he made a determined but un- 
successful attempt to obtain executive clemency to end the strange exile 
that was imposed by the Otis^probation. Pendergast's petition for release 
from the probation was recommended by a group of prominent citizens > 
including the town's leading banker, its foremost real estate man, a 
Protestant minister and a Catholic priest, but Judge Otis and Roosevelt's 
Department of Justice quickly squelched the Boss's hope for a pardon. 

Although he was still not entirely free, Pendergast in this same year,. 
1943, finally was relieved from the threat of further punishment for his 
part in the insurance compromise bribe. Since his return from Federal 
prison, he had been fighting bribe conspiracy and contempt charges that 


were filed in state and Federal courts some time after the income tax ac- 
tions. The state case collapsed when A. L. McCormack, the insurance 
man who delivered the money, refused to testify. In the Federal Court, 
Pendergast and O'Malley were sentenced to two years each in prison on 
contempt charges growing out of the insurance settlement. McCormack, 
who appeared as a government witness, was granted probation on a two- 
year sentence. The contempt sentences were set aside in 1943 by the 
United States Supreme Court in a six to one decision, Mr. Justice Jack- 
son dissenting from the ruling that a three-year statute of limitations 
barred prosecution. The contempt occurred February i, 1936, with the 
foisting of the fraudulent insurance settlement upon the Federal Court, 
and the contempt prosecution was not instituted until July 13, 1940, more 
than a year beyond the statutory limitation discovered by the defense. 

Judge Otis had taken the initiative in this prosecution, which was 
accompanied by a successful effort to recover for the polieyholders the 
money which the fire insurance companies obtained under the Pender- 
gast-O'Malley compromise that gave the companies eighty per cent of 
the ten-million-dollar impounded fund. A three-judge Federal Court 
directed that all of this fund must be turned over to the polieyholders, 
and the companies carried the issue to the United States Supreme Court, 
which refused to review the decision. In July, 1944, the Federal Court's 
custodian of the impounded millions began to mail out checks to 

10 that same July, T. J. Pendergast observed his seventy-second birth- 
day anniversary* He found his desk had been decorated with flowers 
when he went to his office in the Ready-Mixed Concrete Company build- 
ing. His friends remarked that he looked betterjthan he had in years. 

The old Boss lived to see the Goats start their recovery in the court- 
house and the county organization, an action that gained headway in 
the campaign of 1944. He also was privileged to see in that campaign tie 
defeat of a couple of figures in the antimachine crusade who believed that 
their just reward was the governorship. And he was drawn into the glare 

*For their part, the 122 fire insurance companies involved in the corrupt settlement 
were to find that justice was slow but sure and severe- Instead of getting possession of 
the nearly eight million dollars which they would have received under the settlement^ they 
were assessed fines totaling $2,090,000 by the Missouri Supreme Court in December, 1946"- 

S.J. Ray in The Kansas City Star 

Here Come the Boys! 

In the primary campaign o 1940, when Harry S. Truman was nominated for his 
second term in the Senate, 


of the national spotlight again with Harry Truman's nomination and 
successful race for the Vice-Presidency in the summer and fall of 1944. 

Newspaper commentators generally have acclaimed the Truman pro- 
motion over Henry Wallace in the Chicago Convention of 1944 as a 
supreme achievement of the big city bosses, Kelly and others, working 
with the Southern and congressional organization leaders against the 
purposeful C.I.O. strategists and the starry-eyed New Dealers. They did 
not include Tom Pendergast in this intrigue, for Uncle Tom was care- 
fully observing the terms of his probation. However, the retired Boss had 
had a hand in Truman's preparation for this key role at a decisive stage of 
his career* Truman's nomination in Chicago climaxed a comeback in 
public life that has few if any parallels, and one that would not have been 
possible without the Pendergast support. 

Senator Truman's career was generally believed to be over in April, 
1939, when his principal political sponsor was indicted. Truman received 
the news of Tom Pendergast's fall with the comment: "I-am sorry this 
happened, but I am not going to desert a ship that is in distress." Some 
persons were offended by this statement but many were favorably im- 
pressed by the spunk and personal loyalty displayed by the man from 
Independence. None supposed then or for some time afterward that he 
was the man destined to fulfill the old Pendergast hope of some day pro- 
ducing a President of the United States from Jackson County. 

Truman's first term in the Senate expired in 1941 and he came home in 
1940 to check the prospects for re-election. He found them better than 
most observers imagined. One of the large factors in his favor was the 
support of organized labor, particularly the railroad brotherhoods, whose 
good work for Truman was recalled repeatedly in the press after he 
cracked down so hard on the engineers and trainmen in the 1946 railroad 

A more important factor was the Jackson County Democratic organi- 
zation, which provided Truman with a large block of votes from his 
own county and gave him the power and the connections for some profita- 
ble trading on the opposite side of the state. This was a decisive factor, 
for it gave Truman the inside track with the St. Louis organization 
headed by Bernard Dickmana and Robert E. Hannegan, who needed 

PAY-OFF 381 


Jackson County votes for their candidate for governor, Lawrence 
McDaniel. \ 

A third large factor was a situation of a kind that had developed with 
interesting consistency in the past to help out a Kansas City organization 
man in a tight race. That was the three-way contest, repeating the vote- 
splitting procedure that figured importantly in Truman's first nomination 
as senator. It happened again in 1940 when the two Democratic heroes 
of the reform, Governor Stark and District Attorney Milligan, decided 
at the same time that they were entitled to the senatorship. Although it 
was certain that these two would divide the outstate and antimachine 
vote to an extent that greatly improved Truman's chances, Stark still 
looked like the winner until he became preoccupied with a Stark boom 
for Vice-President and a Stark hope for a place in Roosevelt's Cabinet. 
His political opponents encouraged this inflation at the same time that 
they derided him for big-headedness, declaring that Stark was running 
for everything. 

The potent Jackson County organization figured further in the con- 
sideration that kept Senator Bennett C. Clark from giving Milligan the 
support he expected. Clark had received the Pendergast backing in his 
re-nomination fight in 1938 and was going to need it again in 1944. He 
was, moreover, a close personal friend of Truman's by this time. He 
delivered the nominating speech for Truman at Chicago in 1944 and 
received a presidential appointment to a judgeship after Truman entered 
the White House. 

The Stark forces looked for a large majority from St. Louis in 1940 
but could get? no final tommitment from the bosses there, who put 
off the deal until Stark could make up his mind what office he was 
running for. Milligan's backers meanwhile were quieted with the secret 
word that the St. Louis organization actually intended to divide its votes 
between Truman and Milligan. At the last moment, in a coup engineered 
by Hannegan, the organization went down the line for Truman, deliver- 
ing an 8,311 lead from St. Louis for him. When all the ballots in the 
state were counted, he had won the nomination by ^7,476 votes, with 
Stark in the runner-up position. 

Returning to Washington in the third Roosevelt landslide, Senator 
Truman stepped to the forefront of the national picture with his com- 


mittec to investigate wartime contracts and production. In this he em- 
ployed a technique in which all representatives from the Jackson County 
school were thoroughly grounded. Senator Reed had built himself up 
for his presidential bid in 1928 with his Senate campaign funds inves- 
tigating committee. Congressman Joe Shannon was endeavoring to draw 
the national spotlight with his committee to discourage government 
competition with private business and his bill to place government on a 
cost accounting basis, before Mr. Roosevelt's economists made all this 
very quaint. Representative C. Jasper Bell picked a likely publicity 
medium with his committee to investigate the Townsend Movement. 
Congressman Roger C. Slaughter follows the tradition with his com- 
mittee to investigate surplus property sales. 

From this point on, the advancement of Truman was an affair man- 
aged entirely by himself, the other bosses in the party and the American 
press. The commentators who gave major credit to the old bosses for the 
maneuver that put Truman on the ticket with Roosevelt were much too 
modest about their own endeavors. Numerous powerful publishers and 
their trained seals had been preparing the way for Truman for some 
time before he arrived in Chicago. It was clear to every reporter, editor 
and politician who got a good look at President Roosevelt in this period 
that the Vice-President would stand a good chance to finish out the 
fourth term. It was clear to'all that the outcome of the 1944 convention 
struggle over the Vice-Presidency might determine the direction of the 
Democratic Party and the national government for many years to come. 
The selection of Truman as a possible compromise man for the anti-New 
Deal stand in Chicago is clear in the lines of his build-up^ in the volume, 
the tone and the effect of the publicity he received in the work of the 
Senate Wartime Investigating Committee. 

Senator Truman deserves much credit for that work; and while a com- 
mittee chairman customarily reaps all the personal glory, the fact cannot 
be ignored that his favorable press had the proportions of a concerted 
campaign and his principal pluggers were magazin^and newspaper edi- 
tors who were praying for a Democratic leader who knew the New Deal 
routine and yet was safe. Harry Truman met the specifications almost 
to a unique degree. Jimmy Byrnes was a good conservative in the mpq- 
circle but he had been out of the traditional line of advancement for some 

PAY-OFF 3*3 

time, he was intimately identified with the Southern Bourbons and un- 
acceptable to labor. Senator Truman had the best New Deal voting record 
in the Senate next to Joe Guffey; he was solid with labor, he had risen to 
his present eminence in the elective field, and yet he was essentially a 

Truman's appointments since he became President, and his perfunc- 
tory efforts to get action on Rooseveltian measures he has called for, have 
impressed the fact of his conservatism on the nation. But long before the 
C J.O. and the brilliant New York leftist observers began to understand 
the man from Missouri, many practical politicians, businessmen and 
newspapermen had correctly placed Truman and were not confused by 
his voting record. President Roosevelt did not admit him to the New 
Deal inner circle, and rarely saw him personally. Truman's intimates 
in Washington were not Ickes, Wallace and Hopkinp. Senator Bennett 
Clark of Missouri, Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana and John 
Nance Garner, Vice-President until 1937, were among the men in the 
Senate with whom he was closest. 

Commenting on Truman's reputation as a liberal, Roy A. Roberts, 
managing editor of the Star, wrote in 1944 that Truman ha4 not seen 
FJDJR., personally more than five or six times, adding: "The Senator's 
close friends, and especially his colleagues, knew that at heart he was an 
old-fashioned Missourian not a pink or a reformer." 

The quality of convention generalship was very high in the Truman- 
Hannegan camp in 1944. It was particularly adroit in the important busi- 
ness of rumor-spreading, and Mr. Hannegan exhibited an uncommon 
grasp on the art of publicity. His chief contribution, which was the thing 
that clinched the vice-presidential nomination for Truman, was the 
famous letter from President Roosevelt, stating that he would be pleased 
to accept either Justice Douglas or Senator Truman as his running mate. 

Politicians' and editors had worked together to make one other large 
contribution to this situation. That was the business of the Southern re- 
volt against Henry Wallace, led by the Texas Bourbons. For weeks the 
anti-Roosevelt press played up the maneuvering of the rebels, producing 
much smoke and clamor but little fire. New Dealers countered by having 
Roosevelt put the squeeze on Jesse^ Jones, the Texas businessman in his 
Cabinet, and when the Southern hotheads assembled in Chicago for their 


and- Wallace demonstration they made a pathetic show, which the press 
charitably played down. But the purpose had been served of impressing 
on the absent Roosevelt that it would be impolitic to press for Wallace as 
hard as he did in 1940. At the climax of the struggle, Wallace took the 
convention floor with the speech that made it clear to all that the Demo- 
crats would accept or reject the New Deal crusade in their decision on 
his candidacy, and for a moment it appeared that the popular demonstra- 
tion for him would stampede the convention his way. But the city bosses 
and the old line practical politicians from Washington were prepared 
for this emergency. The convention chairman quickly adjourned the con- 
vention to protect the delegates from the roar of the crowds and permit 
the negotiations in the hotel rooms to be completed. The amateurs had 
nothing more in their bag of tricks and the next day the nomination went 
to Truman. He stood before the convention, giving a convincing impres- 
sion of a modest man overwhelmed by his good fortune. It was said that 
he hacjn't asked for the nomination and didn't want to be Vice-President, 
but there was no hesitancy in his acceptance, and the record showed that 
he had moved unerringly toward the main chance. 

Senator Truman came home and was the honor guest at a massive re- 
ception given by the business leaders, at which he found himself the hero 
of numerous prominent Willkie Democrats and Republicans. The air 
of rejoicing among the Republicans was so pronounced that it seemed 
this was being celebrated as the G.O.P. victory of 1944. Mr. Truman also 
found himself the object of flattering attention from the Star, and a popu- 
lar local gag of the period was that the Republican newspaper was trying 
to elect Truman Vice-President and Tom Dewey to the Presidency at 
the same time. While the old Boss's faithful friend was being thus hon- 
ored, the reform paper hauled out the machine stainer for use against 
a couple of other Democrats who were running for state offices. This new 
agitation over the machine scandals grew intense but didn't defeat the 
candidates against whom it was aimed. When the election smoke finally 
cleared, Missouri had gone Democratic again and Roosevelt was in for 
the fourth term. However, the Republicans found some consolation in 
an upset victory in the. senatorial race. And, of course, everybody in 
Jackson County was happy that Harry made it all right. 

PAY-OFF 385 

Tom Pendergast had little time left in which to put his final affairs in 
order. He declined rapidly in the final months of 1944. Perhaps he was 
depressed by the revival of the boss scandal^ during the campaign. Cer- 
tainly he had some reason for supposing at this time that the machine 
skeleton would be rattled forever over the Goats, and he would never 
know peace again on this earth. Doubtless he derived considerable satis- 
faction from the vindication of Harry Truman, but the conduct of the 
campaign could have left him under no illusions that there would be any 
forgiving and forgetting for T. J. Pendergast himself. 

Pendergast's thoughts were on the judgment of the people, and he 
broke his long silence late in October, 1944, two weeks before the gen- 
eral election, to speak up in his own behalf. He must have realized the 
end was near for he welcomed the opportunity to justify himself before 
the public and say a word of farewell. He was interviewed by Harry 
Wohl of the St. Louis Star-Times in his Ready-Mixed Concrete office. 

"At seventy-two," he said, "it is too late to get back into politics, to start 
the day's work at five or six o'clock in the morning, to see my friends 
from morning until night. No. I am too old for that. 

"But if I were a young man I would engage actively in politics again* 
Politics is a great game and I have enjoyed every minute of it. 

"All I want to do is go ahead with my business here, to provide for my 
family and to take care of any poor friends as I did in the past. I'd like to 
do this for a long time to come. 

"Pve had a good life. I got into trouble, but I am not blaming anybody 
but myself. 

"I've done a lot for Kansas City for the poor of JCansas City. I've done 
more for them than all the big shots and bankers, all of them put to- 
gether. We used to take care of our poor, with coal and wood and food 
and rent, and we tfelped them in their trouble. We never asked the poor 
about their politics. 

"And I've never broken my word. Put this dovfia: I've never broken 
my word to any living human being I gave it to. That is the key to suc- 
cess in politics or anything else." 

He died three months later, at nine-forty o'clock the night of January 
26^ 1945, st ^ an cxite in bis home town, leaving a debt that took virtually 
all of the one hundred and twenty thousand dollars in personal holdings 

3 86 TOM'S TOWN 

to which his once large estate had shrunk. All the rest had gone to his 
wife, his children and lawyers, and to pay the costs o his illness and his 
settlement with the government, 

A crowd filled Visitation Church to overflowing and extended to the 
street at the Pendergast funeral services. The priest spoke quietly, saying 
the things that properly could be said about a man who had charitable 
instincts and overpowering ambitions, who did some good things and 
made some mistakes. "Some always look for the evil," the priest said. 
"They never look for the good. Mr. Pendergast never maliciously in- 
jured the character of anyone. We all know he was a man of his word. 
I have heard men say they would rather have his word than his note. We 
all have faults. We are all human beings." 

The theme of a sermon ran through the priest's words. "A man who 
tries to find happiness through money or power never finds it," he said. 

There were numerous prominent citizens and former public officials 
among the mourners, but all attention was centered on Vice-President 
Harry Truman, who flew from Washington to attend the services. He 
could easily have found an excuse to stay in the capital but he hurried to 
Kansas City in an Army bomber, arriving shortly before the funeral. 

After the services Vice-President Truman chatted briefly with friends 
who crowded around him. There were a few final words between Jimmy 
Pendergast, the new head of the Jackson Democratic Club, and the club's 
vice-president who had become the Vice-President of all the American 
people. Mr. Truman was in a hurry to get back to the Army bomber 
which was waiting for him at the airport in the industrial West Bottoms, 
where this story began more than sixty years ago. He had an engagement 
to fill in Philadelphia before returning to Washington and events were 
rushing on him. It was seventy-three days before he was called to the 
White House to take the oath of office as the Thirty-third President of 
the United States. 


Adams, D. S., 223, 242, 243 

American Automobile Club, 269 

Anerican Federation of Labor, 302 

American House, 25 

American Magazine, 227 

American Protective Association, 31, 36 

Amos *n* Andy, 126-27 

Anderson, Harold, 369 

Anthon, Ferris, 259, 260, 263 

Armour, J. Ogden, 103 

Aylward, James P., 76, 270, 271 

Backstrom, Frank H., 242, 243, 312 
Bailey, Harvey, 254, 255, 257, 258, 261 
Baltimore Convention (Democratic 1912), 


Barker, Ma, 255 
Barrow, Clyde, 255 
Barton, Florence, 102 
Bash, Thomas B., 245, 260-61, 282, 283, 


Battalion o Death, 208; see also Senate 

(U.S.);.Reed, James A. 
Battle Row, 24, 67 
Baughman, Booth, 86-87 
Beach, Albert I., 117, 118, 120, 126-27, 


Bell, C. Jasper, 270, 382 
Bell, Samuel Bookstaver, 25 
Benanti, Frank, 220 
Benson, Oscar, 107, 108 
Bennett, Harry, 302 
Bennett, John G^ 193 
Bennett, Myrtle A., 193 
Benton, C. R., 241, 242 
Benton, Senator Thomas Hart, 28, 354, 356 
Benton, Thomas Hart (artist), 354"57 
Billings, James V., 306 
Birkhead, L. M., 190 
Blackman, Earl, 188 
Blair, Sam C,, 338 
Blood, Charles I., 42 
Blue River, 19* 233 
B*Nai Jehudah, 189, 198 

Bolivar (Mo.), 257 

Bonfils, Frederick G., 103 

Boodling, 60 

Boulevards, see Park System 

Bourk, Gil P,, 322 

Bowersock, Justin D., 239-40 

Bowman, Euday, 91 

Boyle, William D., 323-24, 336 

Brewer, Harry, 164 

Bribers, 60 

"Bridlewise Jim," see Reed, James A. 

Brinkley, J. R., 129 

Brown, Darius A., 199 

Brown, George N., 178 

Brown, Mrs. Nat, 213 

Brush Creek, 45, 183 

Bryan, William J., 20 3> 272 

Bulger, Miles, 104-09, 112, 114-15, 141* 

267, 268 
Bull Moose, 47, 77; see also Roosevelt, 


Bureau o Internal Revenue, 325-26 
Burke, Fred (Killer), 254 
Burnett, Ernie, 91 
Burnett, W. E., Jr., 135, 336 
Byrnes James F., 382* 

CaJffrey, R. J., 258 

Caidwell, Robert B., 360 

Campbell, William, 43 

Canal Ring, 40, 41 

Capper, Arthur,. 173 

Cappo, Larry, 242 

Cardwell, W. O., 56-57 

Carlson, Conwcll, 347, 348 

Carollo, Charles V., 218, 249 251, 262, 

315, 3i6, 318, 320-21, 322, 330, 338, 


Cavaness, E. W., 126 
Chamber of Commerce, 18, 123, 127, 150, 

151, 176, 1 80, 183, 200, 215, 223, 224, 

225, 354, 3^0 
Chanute, Octave, 21 



Charter, 47, 115-18, 140, 197* 228, 33*5 
Amendment (1940), 339> 362; League, 
115, 199, 200, 300, 333; Party, 360, 


Chester, Denzel (Denny), 102 
Chicago Convention (Democratic, 1932), 

206-07, 208, 212-13 
Chouteau, Francois, 21 
Christenscn, Heda, 344 
Chronicle of an American Crusader, 194, 

I95n.; see also Mayerberg, Samuel S. 
CI.O-, 302, 383 
Citizens-Fusion, 231, 300; see also Coalition 


Citizens Party, 231, 372-74, 375 
City Charter, see Charter 
Civic Improvement Committee, 180-81; see 

also Committee of 1,000 
Civic Research Committee, see Kansas City 

Civic Research Institute 
Clark, Bennett C., 203, 224, 270, 271, 272, 

273, 274, 306, 309, 381, 383 
Clark, Champ, 171, 203 
Clark, Charles H., 157-58 
Clendening, Logan, 357-59 
Click, Clarence, 344 34^, 348, 35 
Climax Saloon, 25 
Coalition Campaign, 300, 303, 304, 360; 

see also Citizens-Fusion 
Coates, Kersey, 21, 26, 42 
Coatcs House, 27, 149, 177 
Cochran, John J., 273, 274 
Cole, Lloyd, 249 
Collier's, 38 

Collins, Roy T., 147, 148 
Columbia (Mo.), 190 
Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune, 190 
Combine, the, 37, 43, 46 
Combs, George H., Jr., 121-22 
Comer, Mrs. Russell C., 363-64 
Committee of 1,000, 181, 182, 183; see 

also Civic Improvement Committee 
Congress, see House of Representatives; 

Senate (U.S.) 

Congressional Record, 169 
Connell, Charles, 147 
Convention Hall, 163, 312, 314 
Cookingham, L. P., 338, 371 
Cookson Hills (Okla.) 257 
Coolidgc, Calvin, 51, 115, 161, 177 
Copeland, Royal S., 243 
Corrigan (Bernard) Mule Car Line, 41-42 
Council of Churches, 312 
Country Bookkeeping, 124, 333-34, 336 
Country Club district, 142, 193, 358 
County Court (Jackson County), 83* 105, 

106, 184, 266, 268, 269 
Cowherd, William S., 30, 63 

Crittenden, T, T., 83, 84 
Cromwell, Frank, 112 
Cronin*s Saloon, 59 
Crowe, Martin, 59 
Cuban Gardens, 166 
Curry, John Stcuart, 356 
CWA, 182, 183 

Dahlby, Mrs. A. J., 311-14 

Davenport, Joseph J., 42 

Davis, James J. (Puddler Jim), 224 

Deficit (totals), Kansas City, 334-35 

DeGraff, Harmon O., 190-91 

Democratic Aid Society, 98, 100, 102, 104 

Democratic Club of Kansas City, 309 

DeMotte, R. J., 360 

Department of Justice, 224, 202 

Depression, 8, 168, 173, 176, 227 

De Valera Eamon, 347 

Dewcy, Thomas E., 325, 384 

Dickey, Walter S., 102-03, 129 

Dickmann, Bernard L., 273, 380 

Dillinger, John, 256 

Direct Primary Law, 61, 63 

Dods, Thomas, 356 

Donegan, Joseph, 89-91 

Donnelly, Mrs. Nell, n, 95-96, 212-13 

Donnelly Garment Company, 54 

Douglas, James M., 306, 308, 309, 383 

Drennon, William M., 338-39 

Eagles, Fraternal Order of, 180, 214, 223, 

Eastside Musicians Club, 144 

Eckert, Walter H., 322 

Edson, C. L., 22 

Edward VIII, king of England, 286, 287 

Edward Hotel, 89, 90, 93; Cabaret, 89, 91 

Edwards, Charles, 198 

Election Board, 118, 122, 140, 174, 238, 
239, 286, 287, 295, 296, 301 

Election Frauds, 62, 284-94 

Elections: 1892, 29, 30; 1894, 30, 31; 1905, 
475 1898, 51; 1900, 51, 52, 56; 1904, 58, 
59, 60, 61; 1908, 63, 72; 1910, 65; 1916, 
82, 83, 84, 85; 1924, 107, 108, 109, 
112, 113, 114; 1925, 116, 117, 118, 120, 
121, 122; 1930, 146, 150, 168, 173, 
174, 175; 1931, 181; 1934, 237, 238, 
239, 241, 242, 243, 274, 275; 1936, 279, 
280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 286, 287; 1938, 
298, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309; 
1940, 364; 1944, 374, 383; 1946, 376 

Ellis, E. C^ 174-75 

El Torreon Ballroom, 186," 187, 188 

Emporia (Kansas) Gazette t 38 

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 145 
t^ John, 250 



"Epic of Kansas City," 22-23 
Eureka Petroleum Company, 96 

Farley, James A., 224, 236, 272, 304 

Farm Board, 172 

Federal Aid, 172, 182, 185 

Federal Bureau of Investigation, 146, 261, 

287, 325, 365, 376 
Feinberg, Jake, 164, 166 
Felonie, Robert J., 326 
Fennelly, Joseph C., 226, 227-28, 243, 362 
Field, Eugene, 39 
Fifth Congressional District (Jackson 

County, Mo.), 168, 270 
Fifty-Fifty, 8, 66, 77, 82-83, $4-85, 95 9$, 

IOO, 112, 114 

Finley, William, 241 

Finnigan, Thomas, 164 

Fisher, Paul, 326 

Fitzgerald, Thomas F,, 295-96 

Flacy, Lee, 242, 246 

Floyd, Charles (Pretty Boy), 254, 256, 257, 

258, 259, 261 
Flynn, William, 108 
Folk, Joseph W., 50, 57, 60, 61, 62, 63, 67, 


Fonda, Abraham, 19 
Ford, Henry, 302 
Fordyce, Samuel W., 206-07 
fort Wayne (Indiana) Sentinel, 39 
Fortune Club, 31 4, 3*5, 318, 320 
Forward Kansas City Committee, 333, 337, 

338, 360, 363 
Fournais, Jacques, 21 
Fourth Congressional District (Jackson 

County, Mo.), 270 

Franchise, street-car, 41-42, 53, 78, 80 
Funk, Richard, 367 

Gadwood, John, 241, 242, 246, 247 
Gage, John B., 362, 364, 37* 
Gallipolis (Ohio), 29 
Gamewell Gouge, 53 ' 

Gargotta, Charles, 60, 317, 322 
Garner, John N., 204, 212, 213, 383 
Garrett, Ruby D., 153, 157, 214, 245, 339 
^General Assembly (Mo.), 80, 191, 294, 

328, 355; see also Legislature 
Gentry, North Todd, 190 
Gjfcorge V, king of England, 145, 179 
Goldman, George L., 122 
Gorton, Mrs. George H., 363, 364 
Gossett, A. N.ri54, 156, 157* i$8, 217-18, 

245, 246 ' 

Government Study Club, 196-97 
Graham, Charles W., 284 
Grandview (Mo.), I7* 266 
Grant, W, T., 360 

Graves, Marjorie (M.P.), 132 
Graves, W. W., Jr., 315, 316, 31% 3" 
Great American Insurance Company, 275 
Greineri Russell F., 223 
Grundy County (Mo,), 101 
Gauldoni, L. J., 206 
Gunn, Raymond, 191, 192 
Guthrie, Joseph A., 73-77 

Hadley, Herbert S., 61, 2, 63, 67, 68, 99 
Hammer and Padlock Clubs, 45 
Hannegan, Robert E., 380, 381, 383 
Hannibal & St Joseph R. R., 21 
Harding, Warren G., 51, 103, 104 
Haskell, H. J., 46, 211, 240-41, 244 
Haughton, Charles, 163-64, 167-68 
Hay, Charles M., 306 
Heart of America, 7, 142, 176, 177, 179, 

190, 230 

Heart of America Walking Club, 177, 179 
Hedrick, Rex V., 174 
Heim Brewery, 47 
Henderson, Mitchel, 282, 283 
Hershon, Joe, 192, 193, 194, 350 
Hickok, Wild Bill, 24 
Hicks, Ernest E., 325 
Higgins, Otto P., 247, 261, 263, 322, 324- 

25, 328, 33<> 

Hill, A. Ross, 232-33, 236, 238, 243 
Hines, Edgar, 268 

Hirth, William, 281-82, 305, 306-07 
Hofman, Charles, 193 
Hofman, Mayme, 193 
Home Rule, 55-56, 58, 140, 143, 146, 152, 

156-5% 185, 188, 189, 195, 196, 248, 

252, 253, 256, 257, 259, 261, 328, 333, 


Hoover, Herbert C., 51, 161, 172, 173, 188, 

213, 228 

Hoover, J. Edgar, 325, 326, 365 
Hopkins, Harry, 172, 182, 183, 383 
House of Representatives, 63, 202 
Houston Convention (Democratic, 1928)^ 

204, 205 

Howell, Charles M., 203, 270 
Hughes, Charles E., 103 
Hunt, Mrs. J. Howard, 225 
Huselton, Howard, 356 
Hyde, Arthur M., 100-02, 141, 172, 173 
Hyde, Dr. B. Clark, 64, 65, 193 
Hynd, Alan, 343 

Ickes, Harold, 383 

Igoe, William L., 273 

Independence (Mo,), 20, 63, 106, 141, 145, 

171, 174, 267, 268, 316, 374 
Industrial Relations Commission, 54 



Insurance settlement, 275-79, 2 9^> 2 97> 3 2 4* 

26, 376 
International Ladies* Garment Workers 

Union, 54 
Irey, Elmer L. 9 326 

Jackson, Andrew, 53, 184 

Jackson County (Mo.), I9 34, 35 4p> 4** 

43, 5<> 53, 54, 56, 61, 63, 73. i<> 

168, 169, 171, 183 
Jackson Democratic Club (Kansas City), 

130-34, 136, 276; see also Main Street, 


Jacobs, Floyd E., 113 
Jacobson, Edward, 266 
Jacoby, Clark E., 238 
James, Frank, 89 
James, Jesse, 24, 63, 355. 35$ 
James, Jesse, Jr., 63 
Jameson, W. Ed., 305 
Jaudon, Ben, 120 

Jefferson, Thomas, 53, 92, 172, 173 
Jefferson Cabaret, 87, 90-91 
Jefferson City (Mo.), 7, 55, 57> 60, 140, 

283, 296 
Jeerson Hotel, 84, 86, 87, 88, 90, 91, 92, 


JcfTcrsoman Democratic Club, 322 

Jenkins, Burris, 190 

Jobe, Henry, 19 

Johnson, Tom, 50, 372 

Johnston, T. W., 42 

Jones, James M., 51-52 

Jones, Jesse, 383 

Jones, Samuel Milton (Golden Rule), 50, 


Joplin (Mo.), 258 

Jost, Henry L., 78, 82-83, 84, 85, 168, 169 
Journal-Post, sec Kansas City Journal-Post 

Kansas, 19, 20; Indians, 19; River, 18, 20; 

Territory, 19 

Kansas City (pop.), 8, 23 
Kansas City Art Institute, 105, 354, 356, 


Kansas City Bar Association, no, 306 
Kansas City Civic Research Institute, 115, 
123, 125, 126, 184, 185, 326; see also 
Matscheck, Walter 
Kansas City Club, 154, 313 
Kansas City Journal-Post, 103, 129, 332 
&msa$ City Star, 8; (Chap, i) 22, 30, 37, 
38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46; /Chap. 
2) 47 49, 5* 52, 53> 56, 58, 59, 61, 
69, 73 74> 77. 78 &> 81, 82, 86, 
88, 92; (Chap. 3) loo, 103, 104, 108, 
no, 120, 128, 129, r39 I3i *34* ^4i 
142, 148, 153, 154; (Chap* 4) *8i, 183, 

194, 197, 
228, 229, 
247, 262; 
286, 292, 
(Chap. 6) 
362, 363, 
Kansas City 
1 80, 181, 

200, 208, 211, 216, 218, 226, 
239, 240, 241, 244, 245, 246, 
(Chap. 5) 268, 281, 283, 284, 
300, 301, 303, 304, 306, 309; 
315, 323, 328, 332, 346, 360, 
370, 372, 374, 375, 376, 384 
Ten-Year Bond Program, 176, 
182-85, 228, 233, 334, 336, 

Kansas City Times, 39 

Kansas City University, 367 

Kansas State College, 165 

Kansas State Prison, 261 

Katz, Isaac, 148, 149 

Katz, Michael, 148-50, 151 

Kawsmouth, 18, 21, 22, 23, 27, 38, 39 

Keck, Martin, 70 

Kehoe, William E., 108 

Kelley, Hubert, 228 

Kelly, Machine Gun, 254, 259, 261 

Kemp, William E., 243, 372 

Kemper, James M., 302 

Kemper, W. T., 58, 59, 122 

Kessler, George E., 44, 188 

Killingsworth, Jack, 257 

Kimbrell, Bert S., 152 

Kirkwood, Laura Nelson, 129 

Krock, Arthur, 288 

Ku Klux Klan, 95, 113, 267, 268-69 ' 

LaCapra, Michael James (Jimmy Needles), 

259, 263 

La Follette, Robert M., Sr., 50 
Lake Lotawana, 249 
Landon, Al M., 19, 275 
Latshaw, Ralph S., 193 
Lawyers' Association of Kansas City, 306 
Lazia, John, 159, 160, 163, 166, 186, 187, 

189, 196, 198, 201, 218, 248-52, 253, 

256, 257, 261-64, 311, 321 
Lazia^ Marie, 259, 262 , 

League of Nations, 53, 207, 208 
Legislature, 24, 25, 55, 56, 61, 66, 73, 156, 

232, 270, 301, 333; see also General As- 


Lewis, J. V., 338, 339 
Little Italy, 71, 220, 249-50 
Little Tammany, 109, 112, 114 
Lodge, Henry Cabot, Sr., 209 
Long, Breckenridge, 207, 209, 211 
Longan, George B., 244 
Lower, Louis G., 243 
Luhnow, Hal W., 360 
Lusco, Joe, 242 
Lyman, Tommy, 90 

Madden, John G., 129-30 

Mafia, 250 , 



Main Street, 1908, 130-31, 132, 133, 134, 
136, 147, M8, 202, 278, 280, 304, 376; 
sec also Jackson Democratic Club 

Mann, Conrad H., 179-81, 182, 183, 184, 
185, 214-15, 223-25 

Marie, queen of Rumania, 126 

Mark Twain, 355 

Market Square, 24, 29, 33, 67, 68, 87, 130, 

i 5 8 

Marks, Thomas R., 68-69, 99-100, 102, 


Marshall, Thomas Riley, 209 
Maryville (Mo.), 191 
Matheus, Elijah, 131 
Matscheck, Walter, 115-16, 123, 125, 126, 

128, 184, 185, 370; see also Kansas City 

Civic Research Institute 
Mayerberg, Samuel S., 189-90, 191-92, 

194-95* 196-200, 220, 226, 300, 350, 


Mayflower (snagboat), 233 
Maxie, Gold Tooth, 164 
McAdoo, William Gibbs, 204, 212 
McCollum, Earl, 244 
McCormack, A. L., 276, 277, 279, 284, 

322, 326, 378, 379 
McCoy, Alvin S., 197 
McCoy, John C,, 20 
McCrory, Phil, 86 
McDaniel, Lawrence, 380 
McElroy, H. F M (Chap. 3) 106, 107, 113, 

122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 

130, 138, 140, I45 146, I47> 152, I53 

156, 157, 158, 159, 160; (Chap. 4) 1^2, 

184, 185, 186, 187, 189, 195, 196, 197, 

198, 200, 201, 215, 2l6, 217, 220, 221, 
225, 232, 233, 234, 236, 243, 244, 246, 

247, 248, 255, 256, 262; (Chap, 5) 267, 
268, 297, 299, 302, 303, 304; (Chap. 6) 
312, 313, 314, 33i 332> 334, 336, 
337, 338, 340. 34i 344* 34^, 349> 
35*> 352, 353 358, 359 

McElroy, H. R, Jr., 340, 344 

McElroy, Mary, 247, 255-56, 263, 34-53 

McElroy Emergency Fund, 336; see also 
Country Bookkeeping 

McGee, George, 344, 346, 348, 349 

McGee, Walter, 344* 34$, 347> 348, 349, 
350, 352 

McGowan, Hugh J,, 46 

McKittrick, Roy, 315 

McMahon, Edward, 309 

McMillan, Bo, 165 

McRill, Kirby, 177-79 

Mehornay, Robert L., 360 

Metropolitan Street Car Company, 53, 78 

Meyer, August R., 44, 180 

Meyer, Max, 191 

Milbura Golf Club, 346 

Miles, John L., 141-42, 143, 144-45, 146, 

152, 164 

Miller, Verne, 254, 257, 261 
Milligan, Jacob L., 273 
Milligan, Maurice M., 274, 282, 287, 289- 

90, 291, 292, 293, 306, 321, 323, 325> 

326, 327, 38i 
Miner, Paul V., 284 
Ministerial Alliance (Kansas City), 197, 

215, 246, 312 

Ministerial Alliance (Liberty, Mo.), 166 
Mission Hills Country Club, 313 
Missouri Ave., No. 3, 24, 25 
Missouri Capitol, 355 

Missouri Insurance Agents" Association, 276 
Missouri River, 18, 20, 24, 25, 38 
Missouri University, 170, 190-91 
Mitchell, Ewing Y., 235, 236 
Mob Primary, 30, 107 
Montgomery, E. E., 267 
Montgomery, George S., 374 
Mooney, Tom, 63 
Moose, Loyal Order of, 224 
Morgenthau, Henry, Jr., 326 
Morss, Samuel E., 39 
Mowrer, O. H., 190, 191 
Mulkey Square, 18, 23, 72 
Munger, Mrs. Williston P., 363, 364 
Municipal Airport, 127, 128 
Municipal Auditorium, 182, 351 
Murphy, Frank, 325, 326 
Murray, Matthew S., 271, 330 
Murray, W. H. (Alfalfa Bill), 297, 2*2 
Mussolini, Benito, 347 
"Mysterious Mr. Brown,** 56", 57 

Nash, Frank, 254, 258, 259 

Nation, Carrie, 19, 101 

National Association of Manufacturers, 172 

National Youth Movement, 223, 226-28, 

230, 231-32, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 

239, ^43-44, 300, 360 
Nelson, Arthur W., 113 
Nelson, Horatio, 39 
Nelson, William Rockhill, 7, 8, 30, 37-47, 

49, 50, 52, 58, 61, 66, 72-78, 80-82, 

no, 120, 129, 130, 131, 180, 181, 21 i r 


Nelson Gallery of Art, 81 
Nelson Trust, 81, 129 
New Deal, 53, 169, 172, 204, 235, 243, 

272, 275, 288, 306, 384 
New York, 40, 41* 219, 281, 354 
Nichols, J. C., 302,342, 358 
Nigro, D. M., 262 

Ninth Ward Democratic Club, Inc., 97 
Nonpartisan Charter, see Charter 



Nonpartisans, 9, 37> 4$, 47, 77 78, "5- 
18, 122, 126, 140, 359, 3^3, 3^4, 3^9, 


North Kansas City, 127 
North Side Democratic Club, 159, 259 
N.Y.M., sec National Youth Movement 

Oak Hall, 45, 80, 81 

"Ode to an Aerolite," 154, 156 

O'Flahcrty, Vincent, Jr., 360 

O'Grady, Steve, 89 

O.K. Creek, 34, 131 

Old Town (Kansas City), 8, 67, 68, 69, 

70, 87, 164 
Oldham, P. W., 242 

O'Malley, R. Emmet, 8, 84, 137, 276, 277, 

282, 284, 295, 296-97, 306, 326, 327, 

329, 33<>, 378 
One Hundred Twenty-ninth Field Artillery, 

Battery A, 141, 266; Battery D, 141, 266, 

Otis, Merrill E., 253, 261, 291, 293, 328, 

329, 377, 378 
Overly, Joseph, 138, 139 

Page, James R,, 139, 151, 158-59, 16, *96, 
198, 215-16, 218, 220-22, 223, 224, 311 

Page, Walter Hines, Fellowship, 142 

Parent-Teachers Association, 216, 225, 311, 

Park, Guy B., 202, 241, 243, 283, 349, 350 

Park system, 43-46 

Parker, Bonnie, 255 

Paving monopoly, 53 

Pegler, Westbrook, 298-300 

Pcndergast, Eileen, 283 

Pendergast, James (Alderman Jim), 8, 17, 
18, 22, 23, 25, 28, 30, 31-32, 34, 
35, 36, 37, 38, 47* 48, 56, 58, 70, 

71, 72, 77, 82, 83, 85, 86, 97, 131* 
133, 157, 266, 364 

Pendergast, James M., 18, 97, 98, 133, 204, 
266, 267, 270, 305, 325, 370, 373, 374, 

Pendergast, John, 32 

Pendergast, Marceline, 135 

Pendergast, Michael J,, 32, 33, 34, 37, 82, 
95-98, 1 06, 133, 266, 267, 269 

Pendergast, T. J., 7, 8, 17, 32, 33, 34, 36, 
37j (Chap. 2) 64, 66, 70, 77, 82, 
B3-S5, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 
93-945 (Chap. 3) 97, 98, 99, 104, 
105, 106, 108, 109, 112, 113, 114, 

115, JI7, 120, 121, 122, 123, 128, 

130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135* 136* 

137, 138, 139, 140, 147, 148, 150, 

152, 157, 158, 159, 160, 165, i68> 

169, 174; (Chap. 4) I7& I77> ifo> 

l8l, 183, 185, 189, 198, 201, 202, 

203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 213, 

214, 215, 2l6, 2l8, 219, 22O, 223, 

224, 236, 242, 243, 248, 249, 251, 
256, 262; (Chap. 5) 265, 266, 267, 
269, 270, 271, 272, 278, 279, 283, 
284, 292, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298, 
299, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 
308, 309, 3io; (Chap. 6) 322, 323, 
324, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 
350, 354, 355, 359, 377, 380, 384, 
385, 386 

Pendergast, T. J., Jr., 147, 381 

Pendergast, Mrs. T. J., 148 

Pendergast House, 25 

Pendergast saloons, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 
33, 47, 48 

Pendergast statue, 17-18, 72 

Perrine, A. E., 147 

Perry, Alfred P., 142-43 

Perry, J. W., 360 

Pershing, John J., 226, 356 

Phelps, William H., 57 

Philadelphia, 219; Convention (Democratic, 
1936), 281 

Platte County (Mo.), 166 

Pleasant, Carl, 137-39 

Police Board, 100, 118, 140, 145, 146, 

195, 333 
Police Department, 53, 69, 71, 84, 92, 185, 

195, 196, 197, 199, Z2I, 222, 246, 247, 


Political Action Committee, 376 

Polk County (Mo.), 257 

Poosey, 1 01 

Port Fonda, 19 

Portman, Benny, 149, 322 

Potee, Bob, 24, 25, 164 

Prather, Kirk, 257 

Prohibition, 49, 89, 91, 93, 115, 131, 137, 

144, 146, 163, 211, 219, 251 
Prosperity, 161, 172 
Prudhomme, Gabriel, 19 
Pryor, Arthur, 176 
Pryor, Fighting Jim, 31 
Pryor, John J., 31, 86, 323-24, 328, 330, 


Quality Hill, 26, 34, 35i, 352 
Queen Mary, 280, 325, 336 

Radio Corporation of America, 173 
Rankin, Alex S., 223, 238, 243, 315 
Rathford Engineering Company, 336 
Rayen, Arley, 167, 168 
Ready-Mixed Concrete Company, 128, 131, 
132, 133* 136, I37> 139, 377 37$ 



Real Estate Board, 123, 176, 232, 234-35, 

Reed, James A., 8, 49-53, 54, 55, 5^, 58, 
59, 60, 63-67, 85, 101, 102, 131, 
170, 171, 172, I73 192, 193, 195, 
196, 203-05, 206, 207-14, 238, 272, 
273, 274, 356, 363, 375, 381 

Reed, Laura Coates, 21 

Reed, Lear B., 333, 365-69 

Reeves, Albert L., 287, 288-89, 291-92, 
3ii 317, 3i8, 320, 321 

Reeves, Albert L., Jr., 376 

Regan, Martin, 88 

Reily, E. Mont, 103-04 

Remus, George, 163 

Reppert, E. C. 9 195, 241, 243, 245, 246, 


R.F.C., 172 

Richetti, Adam, 254, 256, 258, 259 
Riverside Park Jockey Club, 142, 165, 166 
Roberts, Roy A., 211, 244, 383 
Rogers, Harry Clayton, 245 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 8, 53, 168, 171, 

204, 206, 207, 211, 212, 213, 214, 224, 

225, 228, 268, 272, 292, 324, 325, 326, 

382, 383 

Roosevelt,. Theodore, 47, 50, 61, 77, 8 1 
Roper, Daniel C., 236 
Rose, Louis, 149 
Ross, Michael, 46, 251 
Rotary Club, 157, *99 339 
Ryan, Frances, 293 
Ryland, Robert K., 375 

St. Joseph (Mo.) 5 21, 29, 32, 62, 296 

St. Louis (Mo.), 54 5$, 57, 59, 60, 62, 91, 
151, 163, 204, 205, 209, 210, 212, 273, 
280, 290, 296, 306, 354, 380, 381 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 292, 306 

St. Louis Republic, 56 

St. Louis Star-Times, 385 

San Francisco, 63, 178; Convention (Demo- 
cratic, 1920), 178, 207 

Sanitary Service Company, 328 

Santa Fe Railroad, 170 

Santa Fe Trail, 20 

Saturn (steamboat), 86, 87 

Schneider, Edward L., 328 

Sedalia (Mo.), 306 

Seibert, James Monroe, 57 

Seltzer, Leo, 188 

Senate (U. S,), 51, 63, 203,, 292, 293 

Sermon, Roger T., 374 

Servicemen's League, 238 

Shameless Eight, 42 

Shannahan, Edwin J., 176, 177 

Shannon, Frank, 36 

Shannon, Frank P., 170, 370, 373, 375 

Shannon, Joseph B., 8; (Chap, i) 34, 35, 
36, 37, 38; (Chap. 2) 50, 51, 53, 55, 
58, 59, 60, 61, 66, 77, 78, 82, 83, 
84, 85, 92; (Chap. 3) 95, 100, 104, 106, 
109, 112, 113, 114, 117, 120, 121, 122, 
141, 150, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 
174, 175; (Chap. 4) 181; (Chap. 5) 267, 
268, 271, 282; (Chap. 6) 363, 364, 381 

Shannonville, 36 

Shawnee (Kan.), 344 

Shelley, George M., 58, 59 

Shook, Edgar, 296, 365, 374 

Skelton, Richard (Red), 187, 188 

Slaughter, Roger C., 375, 382 

Smith, Alfred E., 204, 205, 212 

Smith, Bryce B., 152, 153, 157, 181, 198, 
217, 234, 238, 245, 312, 328, 331-33, 
336, 337-39, 360 

Smith, Sidney May, 242, 243 

Smith ville (Mo.), 165 

"Snagboat Hank," 233; see also McElroy, 
H. F. 

Sni-a-Bar Farms, 184 

Society for the Suppression of Commercial- 
ized Vice, 91 

Sons of Temperance, 101 

Sousa, John Philip, 176 

Southern, Allen C., 174, 218, 220, 311, 
314-16, 317, 318 

Spencer, Nat A., 91, 92 

Spickardsville Crusaders, 101 

Stark, Lloyd C., 8, 279-81, 282, 283, 287, 
294, 295, 301, 304-06, 307-09, 310, 
311, 314, 315, 316, 324, 326, 333, 338, 

3$5 3^7, 381 

State Line sewer project, 358, 359 
Stayton, E. M., 183 
Steffens, Lincoln, 60, 370 
Stephens, Lon V., 210 
Stevens, Clarence, 344, 346 
Stewart, Mrs. Louise, 364 
Stockyards, 18, 43, 51 
Street, Charles R., 275, 276, 277, 284, 322, 

325, 326, 329 
Street, Julian, 38 
Sulwell, Edna, 188 
Stone, William Joel, 63 
Stout, Ralph, 42 
Sunday Spotlight ', 102 
Supreme Court, Missouri, 62, 65, 66, 76, 

122, 195, 282, 306, 347 
Supreme Court, United States, 129, 378 
Swope, Frances Hunton, 64 
Swope, Thomas H., 65 

Tammany Hall, 40, 236 
Taxnmen, H. H., 103 



Tenth Ward, 95, 96; Democratic Club, Inc., 

95. 96 

Ten-Year Bonds, see Kansas City Ten-Year- 
Bond Program 

Thiokol Corporation, 138, 139 

Tilden, Samuel J., 40, 41 

Townley, Webster, 243 

Truman, Harry S., 8, 63, ro6, 113, 141, 
169, 171, 174, 183, 184, 265-75* 291- 
92, 293, 374, 375, 37$, 380-84, 3^5 386" 

Truman, Margaret, 174 

Tweed Ring, 40, 41, 109 

Twelfth Street, 17, 18, 25, 59, 67, 89, 105, 
137, 144, 148, 149, 160, 161, 163, 171, 
241, 266, 287, 310 

"Twelfth Street Rag," 91 

Underhill, Wilbur, 254, 257, 261 
Union Station Massacre, 2-57-59, 262 
United Campaign, 362, 363, 372> 373 
United States Senate, see Senate (U.S.) 

Vandcnberg, Arthur H., 103 
Veatch, N. T., Jr., 183 
Visitation Church, 385 
Volkcr, William, 360 

Wagner, Joe, 161 

Wagner Act, 54 

Walkathon, 186-89 

Wall Street, 54, 161 

Wallace, George K. 121, 122, 134, 205, 


Wallace, Henry A., 378, 383 
-Walsh, Frank P., 53-55, 56-58, 59, 61, 63, 

66, 75 339 
Walsh, Jerome, 339, 376 

Waltner, Marion D., 369 

Walton, Jack, 96, 97 

War Labor Board (Wilson's), 54 

Ward Parkway, 5650, 128, 135, 147, 148, 

Washington (D. C.), 213, 218, 223, 271, 

272, 326 
Water Leak, 336 
Watson, E. M., 190 
W.C.T.U., 91, 92 
WDAF (Star's Radio Station), 239 
Weissmann, Solly, 107, 108, 160-68 
Welch, Casimir J., 59, 109-15, 120, 137, 

1 68, 1 8 1, 242, 245 
Wells, Arthur, 240 
Welsh, George, 367-69 
Welsh, Leila, 367-68 
Welsh, Mrs. Marie, 367 
Westport Landing, 20, 21 
Wettest Block in die World, 27 
Wheeler, Burton K., 383 
White, William Allen, 38, 42, 176 
White House, 169, 174, 214, 268, 269, 381, 


Whittcn, Frederick E., 233, 243, 300 
WHN (New York), 121 
Wilson, Francis M., 202, 207, 208 
Wilson, Woodrow, 8, 50, 53, 77, 131, 173, 

203, 204, 207, 208, 209, 2IOj 211, 212 

Wohl, Harry, 385 
Wood, Grant, 356 
World War I, 8, 141, 161, 249, 250, 251, 


World War IT, 8 
WPA, 182, 271, 330, 358, 359 
Wright, Emory H., 369 

Eugene C., 332